Three human rights groups on Friday called for the release of Nobel peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], imprisoned on an 11-year sentence [JURIST report] in China for "inciting subversion of state power" and dissidence. Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) [advocacy websites] released simultaneous press briefings [CHRD report; HRW report; AI report] urging freedom for Liu, and his wife Liu Xia, who remains under house arrest. CHRD confirmed that Liu was released to attend his father's funeral, and was temporarily reunited with his wife. The groups contend this was done to deflect criticism on the eve of the 2011 Nobel peace prize [JURIST report]. The CHRD reported that China is attempting to legalize secret detentions.
To ensure that the law cannot be used as a shield to protect these activists from the state's arbitrary power, in August 2011 the Chinese government announced plans that would effectively legalize the practice of enforced disappearance. Among the wide-ranging proposed revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), one of the most alarming changes is Article 73 of the draft, which governs the use of "residential surveillance" by the police. Instead of being detained in their homes as in ordinary cases, suspects accused of "endangering state security, terrorist crimes and major bribery crimes" could be held in "a specified residence." Similarly, police could subject suspects charged with "endangering state security and terrorist crimes" to residential surveillance without having to notify their families within 24 hours, as required in ordinary cases.HRW asked that all governments attending the Nobel prize ceremony this year use it as a venue to call for China to release Liu and other political prisoners.
Liu has been one of China's most prominent dissidents. He spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country. International organizations have been rallying for Liu's release since he was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize [JURIST reports] in November. In August, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] called for the immediate release of Liu, according to UN documents obtained by Freedom Now [advocacy website]. The documents said that the Chinese government responded by saying the conviction was in accordance with Chinese criminal codes and consistent with the rule of law. Last December, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia [JURIST report] at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. The Chinese government denounced the decision calling it "contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Prize," and censoring the announcement, blocking internet searches and international broadcasts about it and even turning off phones of people who text messaged the news.