Group urges Nobel Peace Prize for Chinese dissident who called for political reform

BEIJING (AP) — A group of scholars, writers and lawyers in China is urging that this year's Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to a Chinese dissident jailed for drafting a major call for political reform.

Liu Xiaobo, one of China's most prominent political activists, wrote Charter 08, a daring appeal for expanded political freedom, stronger civil rights and an end to Communist Party political dominance.

He was convicted last December of inciting to subvert state power, a vaguely worded charge routinely used to jail dissidents in China. Liu, a former professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison, the harshest penalty handed down for that charge since it was introduced, human rights groups say.

In an open letter posted Friday on Boxun, an overseas Chinese website, the group cited Liu's "unswerving efforts to initiate China's transformation" toward democracy and urged the Nobel Committee to send a strong message to Beijing.

"By doing this, the Nobel Committee will send a signal to Liu Xiaobo and the Chinese government. Many people in China and in the world are on his side and standing beside his ideals of striving for freedom and human rights for 1.3 billion Chinese people," said the letter, signed by more than 120 intellectuals in China.

Last year, a group of Nobel laureates wrote in support of Liu's nomination. Liu has reportedly been on the shortlist of finalists in previous years. The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in October.

This past week, Czech democracy leader Vaclav Havel added his voice to the growing support for Liu, writing a public endorsement published in the International Herald Tribune.

Liu modeled the political document he wrote in 2008 after Havel's Charter 77, a political declaration that helped pave the way for the 1989 Velvet Revolution that swept the Communist regime out of the former Czechoslovakia. Some 10,000 people have signed Charter 08 online in the past year, though a news blackout and Internet censorship have left most Chinese unaware that it exists.

Liu previously spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, which ended when the government called in the military — killing hundreds, perhaps thousands.