After Charter 08 was made public earlier this month, it brought some spotlight back on the human rights situation in China since the Beijing Olympics has ended. It would not have gained as much attention if the authorities didn’t detain the Charter’s creator, Liu Xiaobo. Liu wrote Charter 08 to mirror the goals and mission of Charter 77, a document written in 1977 by a small group of people calling for better protection of basic civil and political rights in Czechoslovakia. Charter 08 was supposed to launch on December 10th – the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Liu was detained at his home two days before the launch. Some of the 300 signers of Charter 08 have been questioned by police including Zeng Jinyan who posted a note on her blog (English translation).

Václav Havel, one of the founding members of Charter 77 wrote an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal describing his past experience, offering his opinion on Charter 08 and calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo. Then, a group of scholars, writers, NGO’s staff, and also a few Nobel Laureates from countries around the world publicized an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao calling for Liu’s release. Amnesty International also released its own statement making the same call for release.

Would China buckle under pressure? It’s not enough yet. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not provide any specifics about Liu but stressed that China opposes interference in its internal affairs (the standard comment for most problems in China that have no direct effect to the rest of the world). I think it’s time for world leaders to follow suit to call for Liu’s release and also emphasize freedom of expression should be part of China’s plan for a “harmonious society.”

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