|Liu Xiabo (right) is the co-author of "Charter 08", a petition calling for sweeping political reforms in China [AFP]
Hundreds in Hong Kong have made an impassioned late plea for China to free dissident Liu Xiaobo in a protest march, a week before the human rights activist is formally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
Chanting slogans such as "Free Liu Xiaobo" and "Shame on the Chinese Communist Party", around one thousand citizens in Hong Kong took to the streets on Sunday in support of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is the first Chinese recipient of the prestigious accolade.
The award, however, was denounced as an "obscenity" by China, and has sparked a torrent of diplomatic scorn towards Norway, with Beijing pressuring diplomats to boycott the ceremony.
Liu, a 54 year-old activist, writer and poet is believed to be the fifth laureate in the 109-year history
of the prize not able to attend the award ceremony for political reasons, though a symbolic empty chair will be used to represent him instead.
"I think it's a shame but I think the fact that the citizens of Hong Kong can speak out as opposed to the 1.3 bn people in China that are not able to, I think we need to do what we do today," Wei Ko, a protester at the rally, said.
The protesters marched to Beijing's liaison office in the city, closely watched by police, and erected a net
outside the building to which they tied ribbons and postcards symbolising their support for Liu while condemning "oppressive" Chinese authorities.
Many protesters also slammed China for imposing house arrest on Liu's wife, Liu Xia, and barring other prominent dissidents and rights campaigners from leaving the country in recent weeks, fearful that they might attend the award ceremony which normally involves a medal-ceremony and an acceptance speech for laureates.
"Liu Xiaobo getting the Nobel Peace Prize should be an honour to all Chinese and shamefully the Chinese government still jails Liu Xiaobo without releasing him. So this is really a shame to the world and witnessed by the world.
"And we felt very sad that as Chinese the Chinese government had not released Liu Xiaobo," Lee Cheuk-yan, a Hong Kong lawmaker, said at the rally.
Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, and Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace prize winner, writing in a British newspaper on Sunday, became the latest to urge Beijing to free him from jail and his wife from house arrest.
"China's support for abusive regimes and the brutal force with which it crushes dissent within its own borders demonstrates that substantial reform is needed if China is to be viewed within the international community as a true leader," the veteran pro-democracy activists wrote in an editorial in the Observer.
Lee, the Hong Kong lawmaker, who will travel to Oslo for the ceremony, told news agencies on Sunday that he and around one hundred prominent exiled Chinese dissidents and supporters from around the world planned to hold protests outside the Chinese embassy and support rallies around the Norwegian capital in the run-up to the prize.
"When we go to Norway we will protest outside the Chinese embassy, we will also protest outside the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony [at] City Hall, to show our support for Liu Xiaobo to get the award and we will show all the postcards that we have signed today and bring it to Norway to show our support."
Liu is an intellectual and co-author of "Charter 08", a petition calling for sweeping political reforms and
freedoms, putting him at odds with the authorities who sentenced him to 11-years imprisonment last Christmas day on several charges, including subversion, that Liu has denied.