Chinese petition joins call for Nobel for jailed writer

BEIJING, September 27, 2010 (AFP) - More than 120 scholars, writers, and lawyers in China have issued a call for this year's Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to a Chinese intellectual jailed after penning a bold call for political reform.

The petition circulating on the Internet in support of Liu Xiaobo follows a similar appeal last week by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and other leaders of that country's "Velvet Revolution."

Liu, a 54-year-old writer and former professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges, a year after he co-authored "Charter 08".

The manifesto for political reform in China was modelled after "Charter 77", the 1977 document authored by Havel and other Czech democracy leaders that provided a rallying cry for their peaceful revolution 12 years later.

The Chinese petition said international pressure was needed to promote political liberalisation in China.

"China's economy has grown rapidly, but corruption, injustice, social unrest and public protests continue apace," it said.

"The ruling Communist Party, with its lack of checks, balances and institutional constraints, faces a major crisis and has already lost the capacity for political reform."

"Yet they still desperately suppress any civic appeals or efforts for reform," it said.

Liu, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement who has been repeatedly jailed over the years, was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power", prompting worldwide condemnation.

In March, more than 100 writers, scholars and human rights activists submitted a letter to China's parliament calling for his release.

Signatories to the letter included British author Salman Rushdie, Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer of South Africa and Chinese writer Ma Jian.

Havel last week co-authored a letter that ran in the International Herald Tribune, also urging the Nobel committee to honour Liu.

"We ask the Nobel Committee to honor Liu Xiaobo's more than two decades of unflinching and peaceful advocacy for reform, and to make him the first Chinese recipient of that prestigious award," it said.

It said that would "signal both to Liu and to the Chinese government that many inside China and around the world stand in solidarity with him."

Liu has been tipped as a leading candidate to win the Peace Prize, which is to be announced on October 8.