Liu Xiaobo

Top economist barred from leaving country

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am

Prominent economist Mao Yushi was barred from leaving China, for the first time in many years, apparently because the authorities fear he might go to Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony next week to support jailed laureate Liu Xiaobo .

Mao signed Charter 08, a human rights manifesto co-authored by Liu, and voiced his support for Liu, condemning the mainland authorities after they jailed Liu for 11 years for 'inciting subversion of state power'.

Mao said he planned to leave for Singapore on Wednesday morning to attend an international conference on co-operation in the Himalayan River Basin countries, but he was stopped by immigration officials at Beijing Capital International Airport.

'I have always been critical but I have had no trouble leaving the country, which I have done dozens of times in past years,' Mao said. 'I was told the grounds for barring me from leaving the country were 'jeopardising national security' without any further explanation. But I think it might have to do with my signing Charter 08 and Liu Xiaobo's winning the Nobel Peace Prize.'

The 81-year-old said he was not planning to go to Oslo but that a police official in Beijing's Xicheng district, where he lives, told him to expect to be barred from leaving the country.

Mao is not the only one put on a government blacklist. Many of Liu's supporters say they were prevented from leaving the country recently.

Police prevented Mo Shaoping, the head of the law firm that represents Liu, and He Weifang, a law professor, both signatories of Charter 08, from boarding a flight to London at Beijing's airport last month.

They planned to attend a panel discussion organised by the International Bar Association.

Mo and He also said they were not planning to go to Norway. They had only British visas and return tickets for a flight back to Beijing on November 15.

Mao said he was told by property tycoon Wang Shi, the chairman of China Vanke, that Wang was also barred from leaving the country recently. However, a spokesman for Wang denied that was the case.

They are all on a list of more than 140 citizens invited to go to the ceremony by Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo's wife, who was put under house arrest after the prize announcement and has since disappeared from public view. In an open letter posted online last month, Liu Xia urged 143 activists, academics and celebrities to attend the award ceremony, saying they were both Chinese citizens and 'Liu Xiaobo's friends who rejoiced to see him winning the prize'.