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USCIRF Applauds the Awarding of the 2010 Nobel Prize to Liu Xiaobo and Urges the Obama Administration to Embrace Advancement of the Charter '08 Principles as a Prominent Part of U.S.-China Relations

October 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauds the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and urges the Obama Administration to make religious freedom and related rights a more prominent part of U.S.-China relations.

In addition, USCIRF also calls on the international community to press Beijing for the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo and other Chinese dissidents and human rights advocates.

"That Liu Xiaobo, and the drafters of Charter "08, have been harassed and jailed for courageously calling for the placement of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law at the core of China"s political system is a travesty that the international community must work to correct,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. "U.S. policy and programs should stand firmly with Liu Xiaobo and work to advance the reforms included in Charter "08, including the freedom of religion. But the main lesson the Obama Administration can learn from Liu Xiaobo is that human rights cannot be viewed as a sideline concern, but are critically linked to the advancement of all U.S. interests, including China"s peaceful rise.”

In a 2006 article "Changing the Regime to Change Society,” Liu Xiaobo cited St. Thomas Aquinas" notion of political virtue as critical to the reform of China"s political system, saying that "virtuous good governance lies not only in maintaining order, but even more in establishing human dignity … [recognizing that] humans exist not only physically, but also spiritually, possessing a moral sense … that is the natural source of our sense of justice.”

This idea worked its way into the Charter ‘08 document"s emphasis on human rights, including religious freedom, as essential reforms for China"s future. The Charter "08 document, originally signed by 303 Chinese intellectuals and activists, contains a list of 19 reforms, including guaranteeing, among other things, the freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and association and the right to private property. Regarding the freedom of religion, the Charter "08 document urges reforms similar to those advanced by USCIRF for the past 10 years in its Annual Reports and engagement with Chinese officials. The Charter "08 urges the Chinese government to:

"guarantee freedom of religion and freedom of belief, and implement separation of religion and state so that activities involving religion and faith are not subjected to government interference. Examine and repeal administrative statutes, administrative rules, and local statutes that restrict or deprive citizens of religious freedom; ban management of religious activities by administrative legislation. Abolish the system that requires that religious groups (and including places of worship) obtain prior approval of their legal status in order to register, and replace it with a system of record-keeping that requires no scrutiny.”

"Liu Xiaobo"s Nobel Prize demonstrates again the urgency of human rights reform in China and the need for U.S. leadership in pressing Beijing for change,” said Mr. Leo. "Beijing views Liu Xiaobo as an enemy of the state, but for millions in China and around the world, he represents the best of China"s future. The international community should continue to press for his unconditional release and embrace his calls for rights reforms as fundamental elements of better relations with China.”

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF"s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, contact Tom Carter, Communications Director at tcarter@uscirf.gov, or (202) 523-3257.