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British actor Patrick Stewart urges China to release Liu Xiaobo, criticizes police in UK student protests

posted 10 Dec 2010, 15:29 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Dec 2010, 15:31 ]

British actor Patrick Stewart joins Amnesty International to urge China to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo from jail. The actor also condemns the use of police force during student protests in London.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 10, 2010) REUTERS - British actor Sir Patrick Stewart joined forces with Amnesty International in New York City on Friday (December 10) to call for the release of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence in China for ''inciting subversion of state power" was recognised

only hours earlier during the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

During the ceremony, two empty chairs were placed at the stage where Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, should have been sitting.

At a press conference to highlight Amnesty International's global 'Write for Rights' campaign, Stewart made reference to China's refusal to allow Liu Xiaobo to travel to Oslo to receive his prize.

"What tyrants, what despots, what cruel regimes hate more than anything else, is daylight. And voices saying 'we know what you're doing and we know who you're doing it to.' And the power of Amnesty, that's why the symbol of Amnesty, the candle and the barbed wire is so potent, because it throws light into those dark corners that you have experienced, and says we know where you are and what you are doing. This is a remarkable day, what this empty chair represents, that it is human rights day," Stewart said.

Former Amnesty International 'prisoner of conscience' Professor Saad Ibrahim said he felt for the jailed prize winner.

"On a day like this the memory just goes back so quickly with all the moments of loneliness that a fighter for human rights could sometimes encounter. Especially when he ends up in a dark, cold cell in a prison. And therefore on a day like this I would like to salute my Chinese counterpart who is suffering in prison and my heart goes to him, to his family and I'd like to extend my warmest congratulations for all the human rights fighters in the great country of China," Professor Ibrahim said.

Stewart was also critical of police during Thursday's student protests in the United Kingdom. The actor said he was horrified to hear that police on horseback charged students protesting a vote in the British parliament which saw MPs approve a 30 per cent increase to university fees.

"These students in Parliament Square in London, the English Parliament which is often referred to as the 'Mother of Parliaments', children as young as 14 or 15, high school students, were charged by police horses. This is my home. This was not some repressive regime, thousands of miles away, but I had driven through that square only in the morning to make my free way to the airport to fly here and to speak about human rights and prisoners of conscience," Stewart said.

Stewart, a long-time Amnesty International supporter, urged people to join the organisation's 'Write for Rights' campaign which appeals for the release of 'forgotten prisoners of conscience' worldwide, and justice for others whose human rights are denied.

"We've known for over 50 years and I've been a member of Amnesty International for more than 40 years that these writing campaigns are powerfully effective. I've heard that from the mouths of human rights individuals, prisoners of conscience, who know that one letter can have an impact. Why? Because what it says, is we know who you are, we know where you are and we are lettering the world know it," Stewart said.

Established in 1961, Amnesty International has 2.8 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end human rights abuses.