TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Ma Ying-jeou’s decision not to call for the release of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo immediately after Liu was announced the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Friday was based on careful thought, Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang said yesterday.
The award had historical significance in China and the Chinese world, and President Ma thought any statement on the matter should be made cautiously, according to Lo.
The spokesman said Ma wanted to choose an appropriate public venue on Oct. 9 to comment further on the matter after releasing a statement on Liu’s award a day earlier.
The president on Saturday urged China to free Liu as soon as possible and called on Chinese leaders to push for political reforms. He also expressed the hope that China could follow Chinese cultural tradition under which ordinary people are treated “kindly.”
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party, however, criticized Ma for not immediately calling for Liu’s release after the Chinese human rights activist was announced as the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
In response, Lo said that a series of statements issued by Ma reflected his consistent stance on human rights. The president, for example, urged China to be lenient toward dissidents in a statement issued on June 4 to mark the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square Massacre. (Related story on page 8) The Presidential Office then reiterated the stance in a statement on Oct. 8 congratulating Liu for winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for promoting human rights in China, Lo said.
The Oct. 8 statement, Lo said, also gave China a reason to free Liu.
“If (China) can make more progress and breakthroughs on human right issues, it would help achieve its goal of a peaceful rise and win the recognition of people in Taiwan and the international community,” Lo said.
The statement was followed by a call for Liu’s release by Ma personally at a gathering in Taipei held Saturday as a warm-up to Sunday’s National Day celebrations.