Brother of jailed Nobel winner speaks out

2010-11-15 11:22

Guangzhou - The brother of jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has urged China to release the dissident writer and advance the democratic reforms he has advocated for years.

Liu Xiaoxuan's comments, in an interview with AFP, are his first to the Western media since his brother won the Nobel prize last month, prompting an angry response from Beijing, which has responded by muzzling the dissident writer's family members.

"I hope the central government will release him and allow him to go receive the prize, but I don't think they will do this," Liu said.

"If the government allows us to go and accept the prize, we will of course be more than willing, but if the government refuses... I'm afraid we will not be able to go."

Liu Xiaobo, aged 54, was jailed for 11 years last December on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a 2008 petition calling for political reform in one-party China, which was widely circulated online and signed by thousands.

"I want to extend my deepest thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for giving this award to my older brother," said Liu, who heads an engineering college at the Guangdong University of Technology.

Global support

In an interview at his office, Liu, aged 53, called the prize a consolation to the family for their years of support to Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, who was placed under house arrest after the award.

He added that it would provide encouragement to Liu as he serves his sentence at a prison in northeastern China.

"This proves there is acknowledgment and support around the world for his years of efforts to push forward non-violent democratic reform," Liu Xiaoxuan said.

"We know that the government does not feel this way, but as the people close to him this is how we feel, and we can only support him as family members."

Liu has never participated in any of his brother's pro-democracy activities, which saw Liu Xiaobo jailed for the first time two decades ago for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

But he added: "China currently has many democratic issues waiting to be resolved such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and many human rights problems."

Impact on family

Over the years, Liu Xiaobo "persisted in saying what conscientious intellectuals should say. What others didn't dare to say," he added.

China has branded Liu Xiaobo a "criminal" and lashed out at the Nobel Committee, saying the award amounts to "encouraging crime". It has also tightened the screws on its beleaguered dissident community, activists say.

With his wife Liu Xia under house arrest in Beijing, family members and supporters fear China will not allow them to leave for the December 10 award ceremony to accept the prize on his behalf.

Liu Xiaobo's activism has already had an impact on his brother, scuppering his plans to enter Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University in 1995 to pursue doctoral work.

The university professor - the youngest of four brothers from northeastern China, all sons of a Communist Party member - said he is now being pressured by authorities to remain silent about the prize.

But Liu said it was his duty to speak out on behalf of his brother in the face of an official campaign to vilify the dissident writer, adding "there are some things we cannot avoid".

Political storm

Liu said he and another brother applied last month to visit Liu Xiaobo in prison but authorities have not responded.

"We think that we will not be able to visit him... until after the (Nobel Peace) prize ceremony, after December 10," he said.

The Nobel Committee's secretary, Geir Lundestad, said on Thursday that the 2010 prize could become the first in the award's history in which the laureate or a representative was unable to personally accept it in Oslo.

"The (Chinese) government has already turned the Nobel Peace Prize into a political storm that we never imagined could be so big. It is not only nationwide, but it has gone global," Liu said.

"I hope the central government will release my older brother and I also hope our nation can undergo political reform."