BEIJING -- Increasing the pressure on China, a star-studded group of Nobel peace laureates have signed an open letter calling for the world's leading economies to lobby Chinese President Hu Jintao for the release of dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, recipient of this year's award.
The letter released Monday by Liu's U.S. lawyers was written at the initiative of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and signed by, among others, former Polish President Lech Walesa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama -- all recipients of the peace prize.
"The Chinese government's release of Dr. Liu would be an extraordinary recognition of the remarkable transformation China has undergone in recent decades," the letter stated. It urged that leaders of the Group of 20 nations, who will be convening Nov. 10-11 in Seoul, personally press Hu for Liu's release.
The 54-year-old writer is serving an 11-year prison sentence on subversion charges brought after he organized a petition calling for democratic reform in China.
Notably absent among the signatories of the letter released Monday was the recipient of the 2009 Peace Prize: President Barack Obama.
Maran Turner, executive director of Freedom Now, a Washington-based group that is serving as Liu's international legal counsel, said Obama was not asked to sign the letter because he is one of the world leaders being petitioned to push for Liu's release.
"We think the G-20 will present a perfect opportunity in that all these leaders will be in the same room with President Hu," Turner said. "Their countries have an economic relationship with China, so they are well-positioned to apply some pressure."
The letter also requests information about Liu's wife, the artist Liu Xia, who is being held under house arrest.
The Chinese government had no immediate comment on the letter. Beijing has been waging a propaganda campaign against the Nobel committee, saying it was attempting to force China to accept Western values. The Global Times, a newspaper tied to the ruling Communist Party, last week reported that a poll of 866 Chinese adults found that nearly 60 percent wanted the Norwegian Nobel committee to withdraw the prize and apologize.
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