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12/26/04 - CHINESE WRITER HONORED - 2004-12-27

Reporters without Borders, a group that promotes freedom of the press, has honored Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo as a "defender of press freedom." A former Beijing Normal University teacher, Mr. Liu heads the Independent Chinese PEN Center, an association of writers that describes itself as dedicated to the protection of freedom of expression and the defense of writers suffering from governmental repression.

According to Reporters without Borders, Liu Xiaobo "is determined that the Chinese media should become a counterweight to the all-powerful Chinese Communist Party. He is tirelessly fighting for the universal ideal of press freedom [and] calling for the release of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents."

Mr. Liu is a human rights activist who has called on the Chinese government to be accountable for its actions. He has been detained, arrested, and sentenced repeatedly for his peaceful political activities, including participating in the 1989 pro-democracy movement that ended when the Chinese army used violence against peaceful demonstrators at Beijing's Tiananmen Square and other places in June 1989.

In 1996, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to three years in a forced-labor camp for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. And earlier this month, he was briefly detained and questioned about articles he wrote for Internet sites outside China.

By speaking out for an open society in China, says Vincent Brossel of Reporters without Borders, Liu Xiaobo continues to risk his personal freedom:

"He's facing a real risk. He has been fighting for freedom of expression for years."

In recent years, the Chinese government has taken some positive steps on fighting corruption and extending social security, among other issues. But China's human rights record remains poor and people speaking out on issues that the government deems sensitive do so at risk of arrest. Michael Kozak is U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He says it is "a very discouraging development [that] we continue to see detentions and arrests of those seeking to take advantage of the space created by reforms."

The U.S. is committed to standing with those people in China, including Liu Xiaobo, who are struggling for human rights.