US House Speaker slams China arrest of democracy advocate
WASHINGTON – US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday urged worldwide condemnation of China’s decision to arrest prominent pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo.
“The decision by the Chinese government to formally arrest Liu Xiaobo deserves the full condemnation from the international community,” said Pelosi, who is second in line for the presidency after Vice President Joe Biden.
Her comments came after Chinese state media reported that Liu, a leading force behind a petition calling for democratic reforms, had been formally arrested for subversive activities.
“Liu’s arrest for peacefully criticizing his government and advocating for human rights violates provisions in China’s constitution as well as international human rights standards,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“It has also been reported that Chinese authorities have decided to bar one of Liu Xiaobo’s lawyers from representing him, a move without apparent legal basis,” said Pelosi.
Liu, who has been detained since December, was arrested Tuesday for “alleged agitation activities aimed at subversion of the government and overthrowing the socialist system,” Xinhua news agency said, citing Beijing police.
The 53-year-old writer, who was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement that was crushed by the army, has long campaigned through his writings for human rights and democracy in China.
He was taken into custody last year after signing Charter 08, a widely circulated manifesto calling for fundamental political and legal reforms to China’s Communist Party-dominated system and respect for human rights. The document was signed by about 300 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials.
“The courageous efforts of Liu Xiaobo and the other signatories of Charter 08 to express themselves in the face of harassment, intimidation, and detention are an inspiration to the entire world,” said Pelosi.
“The Chinese government should cease its efforts to suppress the Charter 08 movement and listen to the many Chinese people calling for political reforms,” said the lawmaker, whose home state is California.
PEN American Center, made up of US writers, also appealed for Liu’s release, saying that China’s leadership needed to be aware of greater responsibilities as the country’s clout grows.
“It is clear to the world that Liu Xiaobo has committed no crime,” said Larry Siems, who heads international programs at PEN American Center.
“Such a blatant violation of China’s own constitutional protections for freedom of expression only serves to underscore the urgency of the discussion Liu has so bravely promoted,” he said.