Hong Kong Catholics ask Beijing to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo

The Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong has called on Beijing to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Bishop John Tong told Catholic Weekly that he was overjoyed with Liu winning the prize but asked Beijing to release the human rights activist and all other people imprisoned because of their stance on democracy and religious freedom.

He has previously urged the Beijing government to allow freedom of speech, saying that it would be "beneficial" for China to accommodated different views.

Not long after the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award last week, a group of activists from the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and other NGOs protested outside the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry in Hong Kong.

They urged the Chinese government to stop suppressing the basic human rights of its people, and to release Liu and other human rights advocates.

Liu, who remains under house arrest, was told of the prize by his wife. He dedicated the award to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the mothers of those who died in the Chinese government’s suppression of student demonstrators on June 4, 1989.

The 54-year-old dissident was one of the students who took part in the Tiananmen protests and was one of the principal writers of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for greater democracy and respect of human rights in China.

Not long after Charter 08’s release two years ago, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power”. He is now in the second year of his sentence.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that it had awarded the Peace Prize to Liu for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

The committee said that with the economic advances made in the past few decades, China must “entail increased responsibility”. It accused China of being in breach of several international agreements as well as “its own provisions concerning political rights”.

Former Czech President, Václav Havel. whose Charter 77 had inspired Liu Charter 08, praised Liu “is the prototype of committed citizen to whom such award is due”. With the Anglican Archbishop Tutu and the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Havel had orchestrated and supported the nomination of Liu for the prize.

Liu’s award has been met with anger by the Chinese government, which called him a “criminal”. Reporters without Borders said China was censoring news of the award.