Global protests demand release of Liu Xiaobo

Poets and writers gathered in towns and cities across the globe yesterday to demand the release of Chinese writer and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

Liu was a literary critic, teacher and writer who was working in the United States when the occupation of Tiananmen Square began. He went straight home and when the authorities surrounded the square with tanks, went on hunger strike. He was jailed for his actions in Tiananmen and spent the next years in and out of house arrest.

In December 2009 he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for subversion, when he and many fellow writers published Charter 08, a bold declaration of rights based on the Czech Charter 77.

The following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and from that moment nothing has been heard of his wherabouts. On the day after the Nobel announcement his wife and fellow writer/democracy activisit Liu Xia was put under house arrest. She has been incommunicado since and nothing is known of the health or wellbeing of either.

The Berlin Book Fair made Liu Xiaobo the subject of its annual “Day of the Political Lie”, which is held to mark the start of the invasion of Iraq. 

Around 150 institutions in 40 countries pledged to participate and authors including Salman Rushdie, and fellow Nobel winners Doris Lessing, Herta Müller, Elfriede Jelinek and J.M. Coetzee, took part in the protest.

Liu Xiaobo

Those reading Liu’s work wore masks so that his amiable and intelligent face was smiling out across the world – our picture shows poets at an event in Glasgow organised by the Federation of Writers (Scotland) and Glasgow University Pen.

21 March 2012

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