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‘Free Xiaobo’ call gets louder

A host of world leaders have shown their support for jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. The Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Peace Prize to Xiaobo infuriated Chinese officials because it opened an international debate on the country’s human rights record. Moreover, the award can potentially galvanise the dissident community in China. Canadian foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon said that he will call for Xiaobo’s release when he meets the Chinese foreign minister in Beijing on Friday. Cannon is one of the first high-ranking Western politicians to visit China since the 2010 Peace Prize was announced and human rights groups have made it clear they need heavyweight help to pressure Beijing into freeing Xiaobo, whose call for democratic and legal reforms landed him an 11-year prison sentence. Earlier this week, US attorney general Eric Holder said that he had raised Xiaobo’s case during his discussion with officials in Beijing. Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou urged the Chinese government to treat him leniently, while the German government said it would like to see him released soon. Meanwhile, more than 100 Chinese activists — including human rights lawyers Teng Biao and Pu Zhiqiang, academic Cui Weiping, Tibetan poet Woeser and journalist Li Datong — have signed and released a letter urging their government to release Xiaobo and other political prisoners. In response, the Communist Party put Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, on house arrest. Liu Xiaobo, an academic by training, rose to prominence as a peaceful negotiator during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. Since then, he has been in and out of Chinese prisons for his advocacy of democracy and freedom. He is currently serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" by co-authoring "Charter 08," an online document from 2008 that simply argues in favour of basic human rights for Chinese citizens. The Nobel Peace Prize has a long tradition of recognising non-violent dissidents held against their will — from German peace activist Carl Von Ossietzky in 1935 to Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991. Since world peace is greatly furthered by the spread of basic human rights in all countries, Xiaobo’s award is entirely justified by this standard.


Egypt to hold parliamentary elections

President Hosni Mubarak has set November 28 as the date for Egypt’s parliamentary elections. For the first time, 64 seats in the 518-member chamber have been reserved for women. Some opposition parties have called for a boycott of the vote, saying that it will neither be free nor fair. But Egypt’s main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, is taking part along with a host of smaller parties. President Mubarak, 82, has ruled Egypt for 30 years but has confirmed if he will stake claim for a sixth term. The elections are not expected to witness surprises as the opposition, often described by analysts as "tamed" , have failed to reach an agreement to boycott the elections or unite in face of the ruling National Democratic Party.

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