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Harassment and propaganda in the three weeks since the Nobel announcement

(RSF/IFEX) - 28 October 2010 - In the three weeks since the Nobel committee announced that is awarding this year's peace prize to jailed Chinese intellectual Liu Xiaobo, around 100 people (Liu supporters, students, lawyers, journalists and bloggers) have been placed under house arrest or subjected to increased police surveillance, or have disappeared.

At the same time, the authorities are trying to smear Liu's image, as seen in the article "Who is Liu Xiaobo", posted today on the official Xinhua news agency website (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/indepth/2010-10/28/c_13579766.htm and in Mandarin: http://www.chinanews.com.cn/gn/2010/10-26/2613189.shtml ), which portrays him as a "traitor and "criminal" in the pay of the west.

Partly to respond to this appalling calumny, which is worthy of the Maoist campaigns of the 1960s, Reporters Without Borders is posting a short biography of Liu by French sinologist Jean-Philippe Béja: http://en.rsf.org/chine-liu-xiaobo-biography-01-01-2002,38704.html

On the eve of a visit by President Hu Jintao to France and Portugal, Reporters Without Borders urges him to intercede to obtain the release of Liu and all his supporters, including his wife, Liu Xia, who is under house arrest in Beijing.

Reporters Without Borders is launching a petition for Liu Xiaobo's release before 10 December, the date of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo: http://en.rsf.org/petition-liu-xiaobo,38708.html

Reporters Without Borders also calls on the prison authorities to transfer Liu at once to a prison in Beijing. He is currently being held in a prison in Liaoning province, far from the capital. The organization urges Internet users to pay a virtual visit to his place of detention by going to this Google Earth address: 锦州监狱 , or send him a letter to: 中国 , 辽宁省 , 锦州市 , 太和区南山里86号 , 锦州监狱 , 刘哓波收 .

It is hard to get precise information about the fate of all of Liu's supporters, aside from the difficulties resulting from the censorship that affects the Chinese media. It is very disturbing that the authorities, especially the Public Security Department and the Propaganda Department, are harassing dozens of human rights activists to this degree.

The Chinese authorities have been using a range of methods to suppress the spread of the news of Liu's award.

Firstly, some of his supporters have disappeared. For example, there is no word about the current whereabouts of Wu Gan, also known by the blog name of Tu Fu, who was reportedly released after being held for eight days.

Ding Zilin, one of the leaders of the "Tiananmen Mothers" movement, was missing for several days after Liu dedicated his prize to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989. According to recent reports, she was placed under house arrest in Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, where the authorities are trying to cut her off from the world by not letting her take phone calls. She had been banned from giving interviews even before the prize was announced.

The Nobel Peace Prize website has meanwhile been the target of hacker attacks. According to the Norwegian telecommunications operator Telenor, Internet users who visited the site were infected with Trojan-style malware.

Secondly, dozens of people have been briefly arrested during the past three weeks in connection with Liu's award although only a handful have been jailed. They include Wang Lihong, a petition campaigner, who was among the pro-Liu demonstrators in Beijing. She was reportedly held at a secret detention centre until 25 October and was then placed under house arrest.

Lawyer and law professor Xu Zhiyong told RFI he had been under police surveillance since participating in a peaceful gathering in the capital in Liu's honour.

Other people were deported to their province of origin after being held briefly in a police station. For example, Zhao Changqing, a lawyer and signatory of the Charter 08 manifesto, has been placed under house arrest in Shaanxi province until 10 December.

Expelling free speech activists from the capital and placing them under house arrest in their province of origin is the third method being used by the authorities, who are trying to crush the ability of Liu's supporters to take action in Beijing and Shanghai. Wei Qiang, a student who tried to circulate information in her Beijing university, was sent back to Shaanxi province after being held in Beijing's Chaoyang district police station.

Liu's wife, the photographer Liu Xia, has managed to send messages despite being under strict house arrest. In an open letter received by pro-democracy activist Yang Jianli, she is urging more than a hundred Chinese human rights activists to go to Oslo to receive the prize on her husband's behalf on 10 December.

Liu's two brothers have said they will go to Norway. After making this statement, one of them was refused permission to visit Liu in prison.

Referring to the Communist Party's reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize award, Chinese intellectual Xu Zhiyong told RFI: "What is immediately clear is that the party has been affected ( . . . ) The authorities realise things must change. I am not sure how to put it, but this prize has 'stung' them, as we say here, and we hope they will react."

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