Liu Xiaobo was arrested in 2009 by the Chinese government and sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights for "inciting subversion of state power". Liu, one of China's leading dissidents, took part in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, has been an outspoken critic of China's treatment of Tibetans and was the leading author of Charter 08. Charter 08 called for a multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in the entire of China, the document was signed by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals, academics and writers. Liu has consistently maintained that his sentencing to prison violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" concluding that "Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China."
On His Holiness' website he released a statement on Friday, shortly after the Liu Xiaobo was awarded the prize saying that "Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community's recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms". Moreover he added that "I have been personally moved as well as encouraged by the efforts of hundreds of Chinese intellectuals and concerned citizens, including Mr Liu Xiaobo in signing the Charter 08, which calls for democracy and freedom in China."
The Chinese government's reaction since the award was presented has been likened to their response in 1989 after His Holiness the Dalai Lama was bestowed the same award, saying that it was an "obscenity" and the decision by the Committee had "blasphemed the award". The Chinese government has since summoned the Norwegian ambassador to hear their formal protest. The Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial that the award was "an arrogant showcase of Western ideology" and disrespected the Chinese people.
The Tibetan leader, who made his recent comments to Kyodo news agency, while passing through Tokyo's airport on his way to the US from India, appealed to the Chinese government that they "must change", but that some "hardliners" inside the leadership were stuck in an "old way of thinking". His Holiness added "I would like to take this opportunity to renew my call to the government of China to release Mr. Liu Xiaobo and other prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression." Leaders around the world including US President Barack Obama - last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner - lauded the 2010 winner and echoed His Holiness the Dalai Lama's call to release Liu immediately.
This came as human rights groups reported that Liu's wife, Liu Xia, had been placed under house arrest after she dedicated her husband's award to all the "martyrs" of Tiananmen Square in 1989. The US human rights group, Freedom Now, stated that she had been granted permission to see her husband in jail on Sunday, however, since then she had been placed under strict house arrest. It has also been reported that since returning to Beijing her phone line had also been blocked and that armed guards have been placed on guard outside her home.