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China 2 January 2009

Leading dissident’s arrest signals government’s rejection of dialogue

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of leading free speech activist Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), who has been held in a secret location since his arrest on 8 December. Liu was reportedly placed under a form of house arrest yesterday under article 57 of the code of criminal procedure.

“Liu has been held for nearly a month in an unknown location without any official explanation because he helped to draft Charter 8, a call for democratic reform in China,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The harassment of its signatories is not letting up, and Liu’s detention is meant as a signal to all Chinese dissidents. By putting him under house arrest, the authorities are making it clear they reject any form of dialogue about the country’s situation.”

Inspired by Charter 77, the charter circulated by Czechoslovak dissidents in 1977, Charter 8 was released on 8 December, two days before the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally signed by some 300 intellectuals and human rights activists, it now has more than 5,000 signatures.

Signatories who have been harassed include dissident Zang Zuhua, who was detained by members of the Beijing Public Security Bureau on 26 December for the second time since 8 December (this time for three hours), and Wen Kejian (温克坚), a writer from the eastern region of Hangzhou, who was briefly detained on 25 December.

A former University of Beijing philosophy professor, Liu refuses to give up on the idea that the Chinese media will one day be able to operate as a real fourth estate and stand up to the omnipotent Communist Party. He was awarded the Reporters Without Borders prize for press freedom in 2004.

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