Nobel Laureate Languishes in Prison, Police Harassment of Activists Rages On

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One Month after Nobel Announcement, CHRD Urges the Chinese Government to Release Liu Xiaobo

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- November 8, 2010) One month after the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned activist and intellectual Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), the Chinese government continues to clamp down on Liu’s family, supporters, and other activists in China. While pressure from the authorities makes it impossible to collect a complete count of individuals affected, CHRD has received to date approximately 100 reports of citizens who have been harassed, interrogated, subjected to surveillance, detained, or placed under “soft detention” across the country.

“The scope and intensity of this harassment indicates a high-level decision to take a hard-line approach in response to the Nobel Committee’s choice,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “However, as the government increases its efforts to slander Liu Xiaobo in the state-run media, threaten domestic activists, and place diplomatic pressure on foreign governments, it continues to back itself into a corner and abandon all pretense of respecting human rights.”

Liu Xiaobo remains incarcerated in Liaoning Province’s Jinzhou Prison, where he is suffering from stomach illness and hepatitis. Based on regulations governing visits, his wife, Liu Xia (刘霞), should be able to visit him soon; however, there has been no word as to whether the authorities will allow this to happen.

In the past month, CHRD has learned of one individual who has been criminally detained for supporting Liu Xiaobo:

  • Guo Xianliang (郭贤良), an engineer from Yunnan Province, was seized in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, where he was distributing flyers bearing information about Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize. He is currently detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” the same crime for which Liu Xiaobo is imprisoned.

CHRD has also learned of three activists who were administratively detained:

  • Wang Lihong (王荔蕻), Wu Gan (吴淦, known online as Butcher [屠夫]), and Zhao Changqing (赵常青) were each given eight days of administrative detention after they were seized by police at a celebratory gathering on October 8. They have been released but are currently under strict surveillance.

CHRD has so far received approximately three dozen reports of activists who have been placed under “soft detention” in the past month. This means, in most cases, that police are stationed outside of the activists’ homes; that they are required to travel under the supervision of police officers or in police vehicles if they leave their homes, and they may be prevented from leaving their homes on some occasions. Some of the more extreme examples of “soft detention” currently being enforced include those of:

  • Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, who has been effectively cut off from the outside world. Police have blocked access to her home in Beijing, she cannot be contacted by phone, and her Twitter account went silent on October 18.
  • Beijing human rights defender Zhang Zuhua (张祖桦), whose home is currently guarded by a force of “dozens” of plainclothes police.
  • Ding Zilin (丁子霖), founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, and her husband Zhang Peikun (蒋培坤), who had the phone line cut at their residence in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province.

While “soft detention” has no legal basis, activists are reporting that police are turning to even more flagrantly illegal methods to instill fear among vocal members of civil society. CHRD has so far documented three cases in which activists were briefly kidnapped and threatened before being released:

  • On October 27, Beijing-based filmmaker and activist Hua Ze (华泽, known online as Linghun Piaoxiang [灵魂飘香]) was hooded and taken to an unknown location, where she was held for three days. She has since been forcibly returned to her hometown in Jiangxi Province.
  • On October 21, scholar Liu Suli (刘苏里) was kidnapped outside of his home and held overnight by a group of men, at least one of whom was believed to be a National Security officer. Liu was hospitalized after suffering a fractured vertebra during the kidnapping.
  • On October 15, rights activist Liu Shasha (刘沙沙) was seized in Beijing by four men believed to be National Security officers and forcibly returned to Nanyang City, Henan Province. Liu reports that she was roughly handled by the men en route.

At the time of writing, another three individuals—Hua Chunhui (华春辉), Wang Yi (王译), and Li Hai (李海)—are missing after being seized by police.

Close to half of the cases of harassment related to the Nobel Prize in the past month involve activists, dissidents, or vocal netizens who have been summoned for questioning or otherwise interrogated for supporting Liu Xiaobo. These interrogations usually include threats by police not to participate in any activities commemorating the Nobel Peace Prize or promoting Liu Xiaobo or his work. For example:

  • On the evening of October 8, approximately 20 supporters of Liu Xiaobo were summoned for questioning and interrogated for more than one day after police broke up their gathering in Beijing.
  • To date, 13 individuals have been summoned for questioning in Jinan City, Shandong Province alone for participating in activities in support of Liu Xiaobo.

One activist called the situation “worse than during the buildup to the Olympics or after the release of Charter 08,” both instances in which the Chinese government launched similar crackdowns on civil society.

The heightened tensions are expected to last at least through December 10, the date of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo. One activist feared it would take at least until Spring Festival before the situation improved.

Along with imposing tight control domestically, the government is fixated on preventing prominent members of Chinese civil society from attending the award ceremony. There is no hope that Liu Xia will be permitted to emerge from her state-imposed isolation to travel to Norway, and the government has clamped down on those citizens attempting to leave the country who they fear may by Oslo-bound:

  • On October 30, customs officials barred human rights lawyers Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) and Li Subin (李苏滨) from traveling to the United States, where they had been invited to observe the mid-term elections.
  • On November 5 and 6, customs officials barred human rights defenders Fang Cao (芳草), Wang Jinglong (王京龙), Duan Qixian (端启宪), and Yu Fangqiang (于方强) from traveling to a training session on the United Nations human rights mechanisms in Geneva, Switzerland. Border control officials told Fang, Wang, and Yu that they had received orders from National Security police to stop them, and that their leaving might “endanger state security.”


CHRD demands the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo.

We call on President Obama and the leaders of other governments attending this week’s G20 Summit Meeting in Seoul to raise Liu Xiaobo’s case with the Chinese government, and we continue to urge other world leaders, especially United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to demand Liu Xiaobo’s release.

We also call on members of the international community to demonstrate their commitment to defending human rights and upholding the ideals of the Nobel Peace Prize by attending the ceremony, and using the occasion to urge the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo.

For more information:

For a selected compilation of cases documented to date by CHRD, please see “Chinese Reactions to Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize- from Both Sides” on our website, at

Media Contacts

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

David Smalls, Researcher (English) +1 347 448 5285

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