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China 9 December 2008

Government marks anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights with arrests of dissidents

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of several Chinese dissidents as they prepared to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December.

Political police in Beijing yesterday evening arrested prominent human rights activist Liu Xiaobo at his home as well as Zhang Zuhua, who was released a few hours later. The authorities also cut their telephone and Internet connections as police searched their homes and seized their computers and personal papers. Liu Xiaobo’s family said police were still holding him.

Police on 4 December arrested three human rights activists: Chen Xi, Shen Youlian and Du Heping, all based in Guizhou province in southern China where rights activists are planning to stage a citizens’ forum on human rights on 10 December.

Charter 8 which calls for democratic reform in China has been signed and published on the Internet by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists and was based on a similar charter produced by Czech dissidents in 1977.

Police also questioned and threatened several other signatories of Charter 8, the organisation Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said.

"One might have hoped that China would have released dissidents, such as Hu Jia, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but on the contrary they go for a wave of arrests and threats. It’s appalling", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"We call for their release and salute the courage of Chinese human rights defenders who have just launched Charter 8", it added.

Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2004 Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom prize, who is a former philosophy professor at Beijing University, has one driving ambition: that the Chinese press should become a counter-weight to the supremacy of the Chinese Communist Party.

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