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Czech human rights Homo Homini Award goes to Chinese dissident and signatories of Charter 08

Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l
March 11, 2009

The Homo Homini Award which is annually presented by the People in Need to persons with outstanding merits in promoting human rights, will be awarded to imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo and symbolically to all signatories of Charter 08. Award will be announced tonight at the opening ceremony of the One World human rights film festival in the presence of the former President of the Czech Republic, Mr Vaclav Havel.

The One World festival is being held under the auspices of Václav Havel; the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra; the Minister of Culture Václav Jehlicka; the Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg, and the Mayor of Prague Pavel Bém. This is an official event being done in conjunction with the Czech presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Homo Homini is being awarded to Mr. Xiaobo in honor of his comprehensive approach to promoting human rights and his courage which he proved in more than 30 years struggle for freedom of speech. Liu Xiaobo belongs to notable Chinese intellectuals and main figures of Chinese pro-democracy movements, who builds on dialogue and non-violent solutions contrary to unremitting persecution on the part of state power.

Despite Xiaobo's two time imprisonment and continuous police surveillance he never hesitates to stand up for unjustly prosecuted and tortured colleagues, writes freely, speaks and acts so he daily run his life under a risk of other persecution and detention. In his activities he always promotes idea of universality of human rights and non-violent solutions, at what state power responds by demagogical interpretation of Chinese cultural tradition and violence as in bloodshed in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Particular appreciation would be given to his effort to advocate for equality of inhabitants of Chinese cities and provinces and environmental protection.

In December last year Liu Xiaobo was detained and transported to an unknown place, where he stays to this date without a legal proceeding. This happened two days before the 60th anniversary of UN adoption of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the day of anniversary a group of Chinese dissidents issued a document Charter 08, cofounded and signed by Liu Xiaobo. The Charter 08 is a straight follower of the Czech Charta 77 whose ethos and values it applies to Chinese background. As well as the Charta 77, it calls for law-abidingness from Chinese authorities and demands a reform of political institutions and constitutional protected right of freedom which is a fundamental base for creation of free and open society. The signification of the Award and continuation on the Charta 77 is being stressed by a symbolic coincidence of Czech presidency of the EU Council.

Constitutional and institutional changes proposed by the Charter 08 have to serve to whole fifth of human civilization. Hysterical reactions toward issue of the document indicate a fear of current Chinese leadership in a year that marks 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. Thousands of people whose signs appeared under the Charter 08 within a few months are subjugated to persecutions by state power and found themselves in the same situation as Czech Chartists thirty years ago. The Homo Homini Award therefore symbolically goes to all signatories of the Charter 08 who displayed exceptional courage and liability toward civil rights.

In recent article for Wall Street Journal the former president of the Czech Republic and the signator of the Charta 77 Vaclav Havel has commented on the Liu Xiaobo imprisonment by stating: "The Chinese government should learn well the lesson of the Charter 77 movement: that intimidation, propaganda campaigns, and repression are no substitute for reasoned dialogue. Only the immediate and unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo will demonstrate that, for Beijing, that lesson has been learned."

People in Need has issued an invitation to Mr. Liu Xiaobo and is calling upon the Chinese authorities to listen the wise advice of the Mr. Havel and to release Mr. Liu Xiaobo so that he can travel to Prague to take over Homo Homini Award. More than 50 former Czech signatores of the initial Charta 77 have joined the international effort to release Mr. Liu Xiaobo. Czech Charta 77 signators have endorsed a letter to the People's Republic of China's President Hu Jintao in which they have expressed "deep concern with the ongoing arbitrary detention of literary critic and former professor of literature Liu Xiaobo" and have asked for his immediate release. The letter further states: "For the international community to take seriously China's oft-stated commitment to respect human rights and the rule of law, and for China's own citizens to trust the judicial system to redress legitimate grievances, it is urgent that China's central leadership ensure that no one be arrested or harassed simply for the peaceful expression of his or her views."

People in Need has also issued appeal to the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Czech Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Alexander Vondra, and Czech Foreign Ministry Karel Schwarzenberg to use all influence the Czech Republic has as presiding chair of the EU Council to secure the release of Mr. Liu Xiaobo. "In a moment when our prime minister and our ministers are negotiating with their EU colleagues and Chinese government planned EU - China summit to take place in Prague, we are strongly asking our government to insist on the release of Mr. Liu Xiaobo", says Simon Panek, founder and executive director of the People in Need, former student leader of the Czech Velvet Revolution. "We will be pleased and honored if EU - China Summit will take place in the Czech Republic and we hope that genius loci of this beautiful historic city could inspire political leaders of EU and great country of China to look for solutions for current financial and economic crisis which affects with hardship and insecurity lives of millions of people in Europe, Asia and around the globe. At the same time, in a year when we are marking the 20th anniversary of the peaceful transition to freedom and democracy in this country and across the region, we could not forget the fate of Chinese dissidents who have done nothing else but expressed publicly their views and peacefully asked for the reasonable dialogue with the government. If the EU - China Summit is to take place in Prague which marks 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution it could take place under more auspicious circumstances and will for sure be more productive, if it will be preceded by the release of Mr. Liu Xiaobo", concludes Mr. Panek.

In previous years, the Homo Homini Award was presented to yet other human rights defenders in Asia. Last year it goes to three Burmese opposition female activists Su Su Nway, Phyu Phyu Thin, and Nilar Thein who were actively involved in the organization of peaceful pro-democracy protests in Burma in 2007, and have been imprisoned and sentenced, or forced to go in hiding after the crackdown of the Saffron Revolution. Another Burmese democracy leader and political prisoner Min Ko Nain has been honoured by the Homo Homini Award in 2000. The laureates of 2002 were Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do and Nguyen Van Ly, three leading democratic and religious freedoms activists in Vietnam.

Some other prominent laureates of the Homo Homini Award have been Svetlana Gannushkina from Russia, Ales Bialacki from Belarus, Natasa Kandic from Serbia, Zackie Achmat from South Africa, Oswaldo Payá Sardinan from Cuba and Sergej Kovaljov from Russia.

People in Need (PIN) is a Czech non-governmental non-profit organization that provides relief aid and development assistance, while working to defend human rights and democratic freedom. At home in the Czech Republic, People in Need administers social integration programs and provides informative and educational activities. "When the Czechs dissidents and human rights defenders needed a helping hand from the world, we got one. Now that we are better off as free, democratic and prosperous country and as EU member sate, we feel it is our moral responsibility to help others who nowadays courageously stand for freedom, rights, justice, tolerance and reduction of poverty", says Czech Senator Jaromir Stetina, one of the PIN co-founder. Currently PIN is one of the largest organizations of its kind in post-communist Europe, and has administered projects in more than forty countries over the past seventeen years. What is PIN today began in 1992 when dissidents and leaders of the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution teamed with conflict journalists to form the Epicentrum Foundation, renamed People in Need in 1994. More information at

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