HONG KONG—Hong Kong activists have staged a candle-lit vigil outside the territory's legislature ahead of a motion debate calling for the release of jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.
They held the vigil outside the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Nov. 2, on the eve of the debate on a motion tabled by legislator Raymond Wong Yuk-man of the League of Social Democrats.
April Fifth Action group activist and LegCo member Leung Kwok Hung had said that the vigil was a "clear expression of our views" on the motion calling on the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo.
Leung, a colorful figure in Hong Kong politics known by his nickname "Long Hair," together with members of the League of Social Democrats and the April Fifth Action group, had already staged a motorcade procession in support of Liu through the former British colony, which enjoys greater freedom of expression than that in mainland China.
Crackdown on supporters
China has slammed the Oct. 8 announcement that Liu, currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion, would receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Police across the country have placed family members and supporters under house arrest, banning any show of public solidarity with the dissident, jailed after he co-authored Charter 08, which called for sweeping political change.
Liu's brother Liu Xiaoxuan said the entire family has been warned not to talk to the foreign media.
"We aren't free to act," he said. "We have been warned. We have said that we won't even give this kind of interview. We aren't able to give interviews to the foreign media."
But Liu Xiaoxuan added that the family was grateful to Hong Kong-based activists for continuing to support his brother's cause.
"From the point of view of our family, we thank you for continuing to make such a fuss about Liu Xiaobo's case, for continuing to demonstrate and protest and petition," he said.
"Thanks also to the Hong Kong media, to the journalists and the citizens of Hong Kong."
Call for release
Since Liu's award was announced, Democratic Party vice-chairman and lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing has also called for the release of Liu on the government station, RTHK.
Beijing-based rights activist and lawyer Hu Shigen said that authorities were pressuring anyone associated with Liu, even as the international community voiced dismay at his continued incarceration.
"Hong Kong has of course always been a bastion of democratization among the Chinese people," Hu said. "We greatly value Hong Kong, where pro-democratic groups have stood united [in support of Liu Xiaobo]."
"It has been the same in China, but we are now coming under enormous pressure, so it will be very hard to sustain," he said.
But Hu warned the current crackdown could prompt an even stronger backlash.
Chinese officials have said repeatedly that Liu's award amounts to a lack of respect for the country's legal system, while telling his supporters to stop interfering in his case.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored Liu for his more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change that started with the demonstrations at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Numerous countries, including the United States, have asked for Liu's release. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan guardedly said it would be "desirable" for China to free Liu, but stopped short of specifically calling for the imprisoned dissident's release.
Pro-democracy lawmakers showed solidarity with Liu last week by displaying his picture in the legislature and wearing headbands inscribed with messages calling for his release.
Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung asked Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang to comment on Liu's Nobel award, but the Beijing-backed official declined to do so.
Fellow pro-democracy legislator Albert Chan held up Liu's portrait as he berated Tsang for dodging the question. Both legislators were expelled from the council chamber for disrupting order.
Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.