U.S., EU urge China to release prominent dissident

Demonstrators hold pictures of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo during a protest, urging Nobel peace prize recipient U.S. President Barack Obama to demand the Chinese government to release all dissidents, outside the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong October 23, 2009. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States called on China on Monday to release a prominent pro-democracy writer and rights activist who faces trial on charges of subversion.

“The EU calls on the Chinese government to unconditionally release Liu Xiaobo and to end the harassment and detention,” the 27-nation bloc’s presidency said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department said it had repeatedly raised Liu’s case with Chinese officials and joined the EU in voicing concern for other signatories of the “Charter 08” petition last year demanding Chinese democratic reforms.

“We urge the government of China to release Liu Xiaobo immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms,” the department said in a statement.

Liu’s lawyer said last week prosecutors had decided to try Liu on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for publishing essays critical of the ruling Communist Party.

If convicted, the 53-year-old dissident could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

A former literature professor, Liu has been a thorn in the party’s side since 1989 when he joined a hunger strike supporting student protesters days before the army crushed the pro-democracy movement centered on Tiananmen Square that year.

Reporting by Marcin Grajewski and Andrew Quinn in Washington; editing by Andrew Dobbie and Mohammad Zargham