Nobel Peace Prize Winners on Behalf of Liu Xiaobo (updated)


Fifteen past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize have issued a letter to Chinese president Hu Jintao, asking that the newest winner, Liu Xiaobo, be released from his 11-year prison sentence, and that his wife, Liu Xia, be freed from de-facto house arrest. Announcement of the appeal, from the Freedom Now organization, here; PDF of the letter here.

One interesting aspect of the effort, which according to Freedom Now was organized by Desmond Tutu, is its "catch more flies with honey" approach. For instance, it says: "The Chinese government's release of Dr. Liu would be an extraordinary recognition of the remarkable transformation China has undergone in recent decades."

Another interesting aspect is the list of signatories, below. Notably absent is a 2007 winner. I would love to have heard whatever discussion occurred between Desmond Tutu and that Laureate (OK, I'm talking about Al Gore) leading to the latter's decision not to become the 16th signer.

Let us hope that the overall "correlation of forces," foreign and domestic, convinces the Chinese leadership that they are better off letting Liu and his wife go rather than keeping them locked up.

Signatory list:
Desmond M. Tutu
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo
Jimmy Carter
F.W. de Klerk
Shirin Ebadi
John Hume
The Dalai Lama
Mairead Maguire
Wangari Maathai
David Trimble
Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Lech Walesa
Elie Wiesel
Betty Williams
Jody Williams

UPDATE: An alert reader writes to ask, "Given that Desmond Tutu organized this, isn't Nelson Mandela an even more glaring absence?"  Fair question. (Health? Not working it out by the deadline?) Still, it is an impressive group, and it would be great if the Chinese government could respond to their high-road pitch to think of clemency toward the Lius as a sign of strength and success rather than weakness.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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