Chinese elite push for Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo's freedom
A group of "princelings", children of China's political elite, has quietly urged the Communist Party leadership to release jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo on parole to improve the country's international image.
Liu's release is not high on the agenda of the party, which is trying to push through painful economic, judicial and military reforms amid the most extensive crackdown on corruption in over six decades, sources with ties to the leadership said, requesting anonymity.
But the back channel push for Liu's parole shows that a debate is taking place among leaders about damage to China's reputation caused by his jailing. It also suggests the ruling elite are not monolithic when it comes to views on dissent.
Liu, 58, a veteran dissident involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests crushed by the army, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging an end to one-party rule. He won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.
The sources declined to say how big the group of princelings was, but said most were second- or third-generation born in the 1960s or 1970s and some were close to President Xi Jinping.
Liu Xiaobo is considered a moderate dissident, but the Communist Party is obsessed by anyone or anything it perceives as a threat to social stability.
Critics say Chinese leaders are insecure about what they feel are Western efforts to undermine one-party rule by pushing democratization.