10/14/2010, 00.00
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Tokyo hoping for a speedy release for Liu Xiaobo

Naoto Kan says Sino-Japanese relations are “returning to the original point”, stressing the need to take “into consideration the national interest”. China, meanwhile, continues to arrest dissidents.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Japan has joined the United States, the European Union, France and Germany in calling for the liberation of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who co-authored Carter 08 and was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said this morning that it would be “desirable” for China to release Liu quickly.

“Japan-China ties are now returning to the original point of (improving) strategically mutually beneficial ties,” he told the Budget Committee of Japan’s Upper House. “In this situation [. . .] my position is to act by taking into consideration national interest as well as my personal views."

Undaunted, China continues instead to speak about foreign “interferences” in the matter. "Some foreign politicians and governments have supported awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. I do wonder what their intent is. Could it be that they object to China's path of development, object to China's political system?” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

Mr Liu, a former university professor, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas day 2009 for “subverting the state”. His real crime was to have co-authored Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto in which Chinese authorities are urged to undertake true social reforms. Liu also wrote six articles in support of civil society.

For the Chinese government, giving Liu the Nobel Prize for Peace was an “obscenity”. Since then, it has launched on all out crackdown on dissidents who have expressed support for the jailed Nobel laureate.

A blogger and well-known human rights activist in Sichuan, Ran Yunfei, said that many government opponents are being arrested. The authorities have also shut down a number of online Chinese forums that were discussing democracy.

Pu Zhiqiang, a leading civil rights lawyer who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests with Liu Xiaobo in 1989, was also detained. “My freedoms were illegally restricted from Sunday night because I rejected the police's demand and continued to do interviews with overseas media," Pu said on Twitter. "I'm now accompanied by policemen and [have to] stay in a small guest house in Fengtai [a district of Beijing]."

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