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China dismisses Nobel demands for Liu's release

BEIJING -- China cast a cold eye Wednesday on demands from 134 Nobel laureates for the immediate release of dissident 2010 Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reiterating that he was a convicted criminal.

Liu is serving 11 years in prison for inciting subversion and a battalion of Nobel winners from across six disciplines sent incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping an open letter urging him to free the activist.

“China is firmly opposed to the outside world interfering into China's judicial sovereignty and internal affairs in any form,” said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

“China is a country under the rule of law. Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to imprisonment by China's judicial authorities for violating the law.”

In their letter, the 134 Nobel laureates noted that no government “can restrict freedom of thought and association without having a negative effect on ... important human innovation.”

They said they hoped China's new political leadership will “take concrete steps towards embracing the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens.”

“An essential first step is the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia,” they wrote.

Liu Xia has been held incommunicado under house arrest since October 2010, when her husband was awarded the prize. No charges have been brought against her.

Spokesman Hong refused to comment on her situation, but insisted that “the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals are protected by China's constitution and laws.”

The open letter's signatories included Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa (2010 Literature); East Timor's Jose Ramos-Horta (1996 Peace); and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984 Peace).

Liu, who was jailed previously for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in 2009 after co-authoring a bold manifesto for change in China.

China lashed out after his Nobel award and refused to allow him to attend the ceremony in Oslo — where he was represented instead by an empty chair.

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