Hundreds of thousands of people across the world united on Wednesday to call on China’s new leader Xi Jinping to free imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia.
More than 450,000 people from 130 countries signed a petition created by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to demand the couple’s immediate release.
The petition was delivered to Chinese authorities in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Paris, New York, Taipei, and Washington DC.
The campaign led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the International Committee for Liu Xiaobo, with the support of Amnesty International, was launched in solidarity with a letter signed by 134 Nobel laureates demanding Liu’s freedom.
"These petitions represent the voices of people around the globe imploring the new Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia. We hope this will show China that the world supports their willingness to hear the voices of their people," said Archbishop Tutu.
Liu Xiaobo has been detained since December 2008, and his wife has been under house arrest since October 2010. The Nobel Laureate is serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" for his part as the leading author behind "Charter ‘08", a manifesto calling for the recognition of fundamental human rights in China.
From Hong Kong to Washington, supporters took symbolic photographs of themselves in front of local landmarks, with a picture of Liu on an empty chair to highlight his imprisonment, before delivering the petition. Throughout the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Liu was represented by an empty chair.
"Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia represent the hopes and aspirations of millions of Chinese who are currently silenced. This show of solidarity from people all over the world sends a powerful message to the Chinese government to free this courageous couple and all other prisoners of conscience," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
Since the launch of the campaign in December last year, every new signature to the petition on Change.org has sent an email to officials in Chinese consulates and embassies around the world.
"It is wonderful to see such a massive and genuine outpouring of support for Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia," said Jared Genser, the founder of Freedom Now—a member organization of the International Committee for Liu Xiaobo and international pro bono counsel to the Lius.
"Clearly, the citizens’ movement led by Archbishop Tutu speaks with one voice when it calls for the immediate release of the Lius. We urge the Chinese government to heed this moral imperative."