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China's Mo Yan wins praise for release call

WASHINGTON -- China's Nobel Prize-winning writer Mo Yan won praise Friday from supporters of the jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo after the officially tolerated writer called for his fellow laureate's freedom.

Mo Yan, who has been on the defensive against activists who accused him of being a communist stooge, told a news conference a day after winning the prestigious prize that he hoped Liu would be freed “as soon as possible.”

Initiatives for China, a Washington-based democracy advocacy group that has campaigned for Liu's freedom, said it was “extremely pleased” by the comments by Mo Yan — whose penname ironically means “Don't speak.”

“We know that Mo Yan, a son of peasants, in his heart is a writer who deeply cares about the people suffering at the bottom of Chinese society,” the group said of the author who previously participated in “infamous communist propaganda.”

“Anyone familiar with his work can clearly see such a sentiment reflected throughout his writings,” it said.

The group voiced hope that Mo Yan would speak out about Liu Xiaobo and the dissident's wife Liu Xia, who has spent some two years under house arrest, in his speech to accept the award in Stockholm.

China's state-run media have hailed Mo Yan as a national hero, a sharp contrast to the blackout imposed when Liu Xiaobo won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize two years ago.

Liu, also a writer, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day 2009 after leading a manifesto for democratic change called Charter 08.

Jared Genser, founder of the group Freedom Now who serves as Liu's international legal counsel, hailed Mo Yan for his “courageous call” for the dissident's release.

Prominent Chinese government critics, including the artist Ai Weiwei and the exiled former prisoner Wei Jingsheng, had earlier accused Mo Yan of being a sellout due to his cooperation with Chinese authorities.

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A protester holds pictures of Chinese writer Mo Yan, left, and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo during a demonstration in front of the Chinese liaison offices in Hong Kong on Saturday, Oct. 13. China's Nobel Prize-winning writer Mo Yan won praise from supporters of the jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo after the officially tolerated writer called for his fellow laureate's freedom. (AFP)

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