Activists support Liu Xiaobo and reform

CALLS for political reform in China have reached levels not seen since Tiananmen Square.

Leading activists have published an open letter today supporting Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Their bold challenge to Communist Party leaders as they begin their annual meeting in Beijing today follows a demand earlier this week by party elders to lift censorship. “We call upon the Chinese authorities to make good on their oft-repeated promise to reform the political system,” says the letter, which is being circulated online.

“In a recent series of speeches, Premier Wen Jiabao has intimated a strong desire to promote political reform. We are ready to engage actively in such an effort. We expect our government to uphold the constitution of the People’s Republic of China as well as the Charter of the United Nations and other international agreements to which it has subscribed.”

In the letter, more than 100 professors, writers, lawyers and human rights activists have called for the release of the imprisoned Mr Liu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last week.

“This is a major event in modern Chinese history. It offers the prospect of a significant new advance for Chinese society in its peaceful transition toward democracy and constitutional government,” the letter says.

Earlier this week, 23 retired cadres and media bosses issued a scathing letter to China’s nominal parliament, the National People’s Congress, demanding that censorship be lifted.

“For our nation to advertise itself as having ‘socialist democracy’ with Chinese characteristics is such an embarrassment,” the letter from the cadres says. “Our core demand is that the system of censorship be dismantled in favour of a system of legal responsibility.”

The activists’ letter calls on the government to “fulfil its promise of political reform, safeguard all the rights of citizens and promote the peaceful transition of the country”.

The letter urges the government to use the occasion of Mr Liu’s award – which he has dedicated to the people killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre – to embrace universal values and join the mainstream of civilised humanity.

News of Mr Liu’s prize has been largely blacked out inside China but the leadership has accused the West of a conspiracy to destabilise China.

Signatories to the activists’ letter, seen by The Weekend Australian, include Xu Youyu, a China Academy of Social Sciences researcher; Zhang Zuhua, one of the core drafters of Charter 08; Zi Zhongyun, former director of the American Studies Centre of CASS; Yu Haocheng, former vice secretary general of the China Law Association; Li Datong, China Youth Service editor; human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang; and Mr Lui’s hunger strike colleague from Tiananmen Square, Zhou Duo.

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