Speaking in Hong Kong Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Beijing should release Liu Xiaobo from prison and honor its international human rights commitments.
"The case of Liu Xiaobo is an unfortunate one. Given his status and his recognition by the Nobel committee, I think it's incumbent upon the Chinese government to react in an appropriate way and consistent with its international treaty obligations and release him."
Liu, the first Chinese resident to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is serving an 11-year sentence after advocating political reform in China. Liu's wife has been placed under house arrest since the prize was announced on October 8th.
But Holder says Liu's situation is unlikely to be part of his talks with Chinese officials this week. Instead, he said he expects to hold "frank" discussions on piracy and counterfeiting issues.
China is the number one source of counterfeit products arriving in the United States - from movies to medicines. But Holder stopped short of blaming Chinese piracy activities.
"No one country is responsible for all the problems that we face in the world. No one country can solve the problems that we face in this area… That means working with our Chinese counterparts, having frank conversations and building on the progress that we can make. "
Holder was in Hong Kong to attend an international conference on combating intellectual property rights abuse. Chinese officials have said the government continues to strengthen intellectual property rights protection.
Illegally copied goods cost companies hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Some, such as pirated medicines or car parts, can be life-threatening because they do not work as well as genuine goods.
Earlier this month, negotiators from 37 countries including the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Singapore and members of the European Union agreed on the key features of an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which would increase global enforcement of intellectual property rights.