- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BEIJING (AP) — A renowned Chinese human rights lawyer whose firm is representing imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo said he was blocked from leaving Tuesday to attend a conference in London.

Mo Shaoping said officers who stopped him at the Beijing airport gave only vague reasons for their actions, although it comes amid repression against activists in the wake of the peace prize.

Mr. Liu’s wife and dozens of dissident colleagues have been placed under house arrest or intense monitoring in an apparent attempt to prevent them from attending the Dec. 10 award ceremony in Norway.

Beijing is also ramping up diplomatic pressure to persuade countries not to attend the Dec. 10 award ceremony in Norway’s capital, Oslo.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tuesday that China recently made such a request through diplomatic channels in Tokyo and Norway and that Tokyo would make an “appropriate decision” on whether to send the Japanese ambassador to Norway to the ceremony. A number of European countries say they have received similar approaches.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Tuesday that France’s ambassador always attends the ceremony and the “tradition will continue this year.”

Mr. Valero added that other European Union governments appear to be leaning toward the same decision as Paris.

Tokyo also seems unlikely to acquiesce, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government already under fire for not being tough enough with Beijing.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kan praised the award before parliament and called for Mr. Liu’s release.

“The Nobel Peace Prize is an award that cherishes universal values. It is desirable that he should be freed,” Mr. Kan said.

Mr. Mo told the Associated Press he was stopped along with Hong Kong University law professor He Weifang before they could board their flight.

“We were taken to an office by two police and were told that we had been restricted from going abroad because it might harm state security,” Mr. Mo said. The officers showed their police badges but issued no formal papers, he said.

“It’s absurd to stop us with a charge like this and it’s a violation of people’s basic human rights,” Mr. Mo said.

China’s law governing a citizen’s right to enter and exit the country contains a provision allowing officers to bar exit in cases involving “threats to national security or serious damage to national interests.”

Mr. Mo said he had no intention of attending the Nobel ceremony. His travel was for a previously scheduled presentation on the independence of lawyers at a conference sponsored by the International Bar Association.

“The trip was fixed a few months ago and has nothing to do with the incident of the Nobel Peace Prize. We were supposed to come back on Nov. 15,” Mr. Mo said.

Unable to leave, Mr. Mo said he would file suit against the officers.

Mr. Mo has for years been one of mainland China’s best known human rights lawyers, but has largely managed to avoid the fate of colleagues who have been disbarred, arrested, or harassed as punishment for their activism.

Many of those have come under even greater pressure following the awarding of the Nobel to Mr. Liu last month — a move met with an indignant response from authorities who have embarked on a full-bore campaign of vilification against Liu and the Nobel committee.

Mr. Liu, 54, is serving an 11-year sentence on subversion charges brought after he co-authored a bold call for sweeping changes to the one-party communist political system known as Charter 08. Mr. Mo is a signatory to the charter and consequently barred by authorities from representing Mr. Liu directly.

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