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Liu Xiaobo Formally Indicted

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On December 10th, International Human Rights Day, one of China's leading dissidents, Liu Xiaobo, was formally indicted on charges of "inciting subversion." Liu Xiaobo was one of more than 300 democratic activists in China who signed a call for political and constitutional reform and respect for human rights in December 2008. The document, known as Charter 08, calls, among other things, for greater freedom of expression, multi-party elections, and independent courts.

Mr. Liu has a long history of defending human rights. In 1989 he was jailed for his role in support of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. In the 1990s, Mr. Liu was sent to a re-education camp. After his release, he turned down offers to go abroad. Instead, he chose to remain in China where he continued to write essays pressing the Chinese government to respect universal human rights and the rule of law.

This month, 165 of the original Charter 08 signatories issued a further letter headed, "We are willing to Share Responsibility with Liu Xiaobo." In addition to the original 300 signatures by academics, Charter 08 has reportedly garnered many thousands of signatures on-line, many by those who reside in China.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "We urge the Government of China to release Liu Xiaobo immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms." The European Union issued its own statement calling on "the Chinese government to unconditionally release Liu Xiaobo and to end the harassment and detention." Nobel laureates including Vaclav Havel, Wole Syoinka, and Nadine Gordimer have joined their voices in calling for Liu Xiaobo's release.

On his recent trip to China, President Barack Obama made clear that America will always speak out for fundamental human rights and freedoms. "These freedoms of expression and worship, of access to information and political participation," said President Obama, "we believe are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities -- whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation."