Supporters hold vigil in a corner of the nation able to speak its mind

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am

The songs they sang were sad, describing iron walls that imprison dissent.

The banners they held carried images of Liu Xiaobo and other dissidents, such as Sichuan quake activist Tan Zuoren , who is also imprisoned on the mainland.

Members of the Civic Party knelt and held electric torches, with the beams cutting out the characters 'Release Liu' in the darkness of Chater Garden in Hong Kong, one of the few places in China where Liu's cause can be openly championed.

Emotions ran high among the crowd, who responded with rounds of applause, some with tears on their faces, when members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee spoke of how Liu's non-violent campaign for democracy on the mainland was an example of Chinese citizens exercising the rights of guaranteed them under the constitution.

Asked to comment on Liu's award, government officials were silent. Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen smiled when asked about it in Legco, while Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-shing told reporters who chased him for an answer: 'You should mind your step.'

In a speech to an Amnesty International seminar in Oslo, unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan - in the Norwegian capital with the chairman and vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Albert Ho Chun-yan and Emily Lau Wai-hing, to attend the award ceremony - blasted Beijing for paying lip service to defending human rights and promoting democracy.

Quoting Premier Wen Jiabao , who has said he will pursue political reform until the day he dies, Lee said: 'The power of the people cannot be stopped. Either you prosper by following it or die at its mercy.'