311_Liu Xiaobo Nobel Prize.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama on Friday urged China to release quickly Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Obama called the jailed dissident an "eloquent and courageous" supporter of human rights and democracy.
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The comments are likely to rattle China further at a time that the United States is stepping up pressure on Beijing for a currency policy that Washington blames for American job losses.
Obama's statement, released hours after Liu was awarded the prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, reflected the sensitivity of US-Chinese relations. Obama praised China's "dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty."
But, he added, "this award reminds us that political reform has not kept
pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child
must be respected."
US officials try to strike a balance with China, pressing it on economic
and human rights issues, while trying to win crucial Chinese support on
Iranian and North Korean nuclear standoffs, climate change and other
Obama, in his statement, also brought up his own Nobel Peace award last
year, repeating his belief that other laureates had done more. "That
list now includes Mr. Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his
beliefs," Obama said.
There was no immediate reaction from Beijing on Obama's warm words for
Liu, who was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison on subversion
charges after he co-authored a document calling for greater freedom,
among other activism.
The award, however, has infuriated Chinese officials. Beijing quickly
warned that the decision would harm relations with Norway, which is the
home of the independent peace prize committee.
A recent US-China agreement to end an eight-month freeze on military
exchanges led to cautious hope that US ties were improving with China,
which boasts the world's second-largest economy after the United States.
But Liu's prize and rising US-China economic friction this week
complicates the Obama administration's efforts to win Chinese trust and
cooperation. The award also is set against the backdrop of harsh
criticism by US lawmakers, faced with make-or-break congressional
elections next month, that Beijing's currency policies are responsible
for the loss of thousands of American jobs.