By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, December 19: A statement from European Union on Tuesday expressed “deep concern” at China’s recent arrest of rights campaigners, including Liu Xiaobo, a leading activist famous for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Liu Xiaobo was first jailed for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations (Photo: Times Online)
The EU's French presidency, on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, urged Chinese authorities to provide "prompt information” on the “conditions under which Mr Liu is being held and the reasons for his arrest."
Last week, just two days before China celebrated with pomp its so called 30th Anniversary of “Reform and Opening-up,” Liu was taken away by police from his home.
Liu’s arrest came just days after at least two other rights activists in the southwestern province of Guizhou were also detained.
Chen Xi and Shen Youlian, who were organising a human rights symposium in Guizhou's capital Guiyang, were taken by police on Dec 11, and another two fellow activists had reportedly "disappeared", according to people close to them.
All of them had signed “08 Charter
”, an unusually rare, open manifesto published on the internet calling for dramatic democratic and legal reforms in China.
"The European Union wishes to express its deep concern," the statement said.
The EU “also calls for Mr Liu's fundamental rights and those of the other people arrested in the last few days to be respected and for the principle of freedom of expression to be observed in China in all circumstances," it added.
Liu’s arrest came hours before the “08 Charter” went online. Media reports indicate Liu was instrumental in organizing hundreds of other activists to sign the charter.
The online Charter, which was published on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was signed by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals, including lawyers, journalists, writers, scholars, artists, a prominent Tibetan blogger and a disgraced former senior Communist Party official. It sketches a free and democratic China where human rights, democracy and the rule of law are paramount.
Their manifesto spell out 19 measures for reform and to improve human rights in China, including adoption of a new constitution, promoting an independent legal system, calling for freedom of speech and of association and ending the monopoly of one-party rule by introducing democratic elections for all levels of government.
The document, while bluntly refuting the idea that China offers a global political alternative, argues that China is "the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics."
The result, it says, is that "our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby constricting China's own development but also limiting the progress of all human civilization."
Observers say the manifesto represents a new public call for change in a country where merely criticizing the ruling Communist Party is seen as a challenge and often brings swift punishment.
According to Chinese bloggers, the number of signatories to the open document has now risen into the thousands during the past few days.
Meanwhile, other signatories have been detained and harassed, according to media reports.
Their mass arrests also come ahead of sensitive anniversaries next year, including the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in Beijing and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Relations between the European Union and China have been strained in recent weeks after number of European leaders met with the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
China called off an EU-China summit scheduled for early this month over a plan by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to meet the Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.
In Europe the Dalai Lama urged the world community to stand firm when dealing with China and insisted that the "free world has moral responsibility to bring China into the mainstream of world democracy”.
World must not hesitate to raise human right issues with Beijing Communist Government in the long term interest of Chinese people, the Dalai Lama said.