Jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has received an unlikely support from a group of “princelings”, children of China’s political elite, who has quietly urged the Communist Party leadership to release him on parole to improve the country’s international image, Reuters reported Sunday, citing unidentified sources.
Liu, 58, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement that was crushed by the army in 1989, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging an end to the country’s one-party rule, according to the news agency. He was conferred the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.
The use of the back channel to seek Liu’s parole indicates that a debate is taking place among leaders about the damage to China’s reputation caused by his imprisonment, the report said, adding that it also suggests the ruling elite are not monolithic when it comes to views on dissent.
“For many princelings, the pros of freeing Liu Xiaobo outweigh the cons,” a source was quoted as saying. “Liu Xiaobo will definitely be freed early. The question is when.”
He is eligible for parole after serving half his term.
The sources did not elaborate on the composition of the group of princelings or how big it was, but said most were second- or third-generation born in the 1960s or 1970s and some were close to President Xi Jinping, the report said.
As to how the message was relayed to the leadership, one source was quoted as saying: “We have our channels … the topic has come up many times during our gatherings.”
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