A group of U.S. lawmakers is asking President Barack Obama to urge Chinese President Hu Jintao to release two prominent Chinese dissidents from prison.
The group of 30 Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives asked Mr. Obama to seek the release of Liu Xiaobo, an outspoken advocate for political freedom in China. He has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power."
Liu is believed to be a front-runner for the 2010 Nobel peace prize to be announced on Friday. Last summer, China told a Nobel official that Liu is not the kind of person who should be considered for the prestigious award.
The American lawmakers are also seeking the release of Gao Zhisheng. He is a lawyer once praised by the Chinese government for his legal work, who fell out of Beijing's favor when he started defending ethnic minorities and religious persecution cases.
The U.S. House members wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama that Liu's detention is "symbolic of the Chinese government's repression of the peaceful freedom of expression" by its citizens. They said that if Gao's imprisonment for defending his clients is allowed to stand, "then even the pretense of rule of law in China has failed."
The congressional representatives urged Mr. Obama to ask for the release of the two dissidents when he meets with Mr. Hu at the G20 summit in Seoul in November.
In a separate message, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) said that Mr. Obama's personal attention to the matter could be instrumental in securing the dissidents' release.
Some information for this report provided by AFP.