WASHINGTON — The US Congress on Thursday called on China to free dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, the co-author of a bold petition calling for democratic reform.
In a resolution approved the same day that the Communist Party celebrated 60 years in power, the Congress said that Liu "has inspired millions of people in China and the world."
"It is the sense of Congress that China's government immediately release Liu Xiaobo and begin making strides toward true representative democracy," said the resolution approved almost unanimously in the House of Representatives.
Liu, 53, a former university literature professor, was jailed previously for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement that was crushed by the army.
But he continued to write and was detained again in December just before the release of Charter 08, a petition which he helped organize.
Hundreds of intellectuals, scholars and dissidents signed the petition which called for political and legal reforms and respect for human rights in China.
Chinese state media announced in June that he Liu had been arrested for inciting subversion and the overthrow of the communist government.
Representative Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voiced fear that China could sentence Liu to up to 15 years in prison.
"The Chinese government seems unaware of the irony of its actions since its efforts to quash Charter 08 only underscore China's failure to uphold the very principles the charter advance," Berman said in a House debate Wednesday.
A total of 410 lawmakers voted for the resolution. The only congressman to vote against it was Republican Ron Paul, who often opposes such resolutions arguing that they constitute undue interference in another nation's affairs.
Twenty-one other members of Congress did not vote.
Representative Walt Minnick, a Democrat who sponsored the resolution, said that Liu was a personal inspiration to him and that he had urged students in his home state of Idaho to take up the cause of his freedom.
"I urge the Chinese government, as a much-admired global power and an important partner of my country on many issues important for the future of mankind, to grant Mr Liu a free and fair trial," Minnick said.
Minnick called for Liu to be represented by a lawyer and for international news agencies to be allowed to cover his trial.
"His courage embodies the emerging global consensus that all people should be allowed to speak freely and have the right to demand that their country be governed by a true representative democracy," Minnick said.