The United States says it is deeply concerned by reports that Chinese citizens have been detained, interrogated and harassed as they prepared to mark Human Rights Day this week.
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack expressed concern Thursday over the continued detention by Chinese authorities of Liu Xiaobo, a prominent dissident writer.
McCormack called for Liu's release and urged China to stop harassing its citizens who have expressed their desire for internationally recognized fundamental freedoms.
Liu's wife and lawyer say he remains missing three days after he was detained. Liu was one of hundreds of Chinese activists, writers, scholars and former Communist Party officials who signed a statement this week calling for greater freedoms in China and the end of one-party dominance.
The online statement, called Charter 2008 (" '08 Charter" in Mandarin), was signed by scholars, journalists, lawyers and activists. It includes 19 points calling for a wide-range of reforms including changes to the constitution, establishment of direct elections and other freedoms.
The statement was issued Tuesday on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Just before its release, Chinese authorities detained several of the statement's signatories, in an apparent attempt to silence dissent.
Human rights activists say the document was inspired by Czechoslovakia's Charter 77, which was a plea for human rights signed by hundreds of Czech and Slovak dissidents during the late 1970s and early 1980s.