Chinese elite push for release of jailed Nobel laureate

Sun May 11, 2014 12:15am EDT
 
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By Benjamin Kang Lim and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - A group of "princelings", children of China's political elite, has quietly urged the Communist Party leadership to release jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo on parole to improve the country's international image, two sources said.

Liu's release is not high on the agenda of the party, which is trying to push through painful economic, judicial and military reforms amid the most extensive crackdown on corruption in over six decades, the sources with ties to the leadership said, requesting anonymity.

But the back channel push for Liu's parole shows that a debate is taking place among leaders about damage to China's reputation caused by his jailing. It also suggests the ruling elite are not monolithic when it comes to views on dissent.

Liu, 58, a veteran dissident involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests crushed by the army, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging an end to one-party rule. He won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.

"For many princelings, the pros of freeing Liu Xiaobo outweigh the cons," one of the sources said. "Liu Xiaobo will definitely be freed early. The question is when."

He is eligible for parole after serving half his term.

The sources declined to say how big the group of princelings was, but said most were second- or third-generation born in the 1960s or 1970s and some were close to President Xi Jinping.

"The biggest worry is hostile forces using Liu Xiaobo once he is freed," the second source told Reuters.   Continued...

 
Workers prepare the Nobel Peace Prize laureate exhibition "I Have No Enemies" for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo December 9, 2010.  REUTERS/Toby Melville