New Delhi: The pitch for the release of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has gathered fresh momentum with more than 500 high-profile literary signatories from around the world joining ranks with the Internationales Literaturfestival-Berlin.
The litterateurs who have joined the crusade against Xiaobo's detention include the likes of John Ashbery, Wolf Biermann, Breyten Breytenbach, Hans Christoph Buch, Judith Butler, J.M. Coetzee, Dave Eggers, Elfriede Jelinek, Herta Müller, Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth.
"The signatories appealed to the cultural institutions, radio stations and schools for a worldwide reading of Charter 08 and Liu's poem 'You Wait for Me with Dust' Mar 20, 2011," a release issued by the Internationales Literaturfestival-Berlin said Friday.
Liu Xiaobo is currently the world's lone winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who is still in custody.
In 2009, after co-authoring "Charter 08", a manifesto calling for greater freedom and democracy in China, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison on a charge of "inciting subversion of state power".
His continued imprisonment was a basic breach of human rights, and also a violation of China's own constitution where Article 35 states that "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration," the appeal said.
In 1936, neither Nobel laureate Carl von Ossietzky, a German journalist and pacifist, nor his family members, could go to Oslo to collect the Nobel Peace Prize because "they was barred from leaving Nazi Germany".
The preamble to "Charter 08" said: "Chinese citizens were becoming increasingly aware that freedom, equality, and human rights were universal values shared by humankind and that democracy, republicanism, and constitutional government made up the basic institutional framework of modern politics."
In 2005, Liu Xiaobo wrote: "Didn't they say that China was in a golden moment of historical peak, and that the state of human rights is at the very best? Didn't they say that the present government wants to treat 'the people as the foundation' in order to build a 'harmonious society'? Then why is the government which has built the golden and almighty China so panicky?
"Why in this 'harmonious society' in which 'the people are the foundation' are I and other dissidents treated like trash to be stomped upon? Why must the 'harmonious society' be constructed only with police officers posted at stations?"
The appeal said it did not befit a great country to denounce the Nobel Peace Prize, expand the restrictive security net around a peace laureate to include his friends and relatives, and persuade foreign diplomats to boycott the prize ceremony.
Since the prize announcement, there has been no let-up in the harassment of Liu's family and supporters, and all others attempting free speech activities in China.
"Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia is under house arrest. Several Chinese human rights activists have been prevented from leaving the country in case they go to Oslo, and Liu's brothers are pessimistic about their chances of being able to travel in his place," it said.
A courageous activist all his life, Liu Xiaobo once wrote: "In a dictatorial country, open letters signed by individuals or groups form an important method for the civilians to resist dictatorship and fight for freedom."
"And so we, citizens of the world, sign this appeal - some with our names, and many, many more with our voices, which will be raised Mar 20, March to read Liu's words - and show solidarity with him, and others in China, who are not free to say what they want. We will continue to speak up until there is an end to the unjust incarceration of Liu Xiaobo, and others like him," the appeal said.