China on Wednesday brushed aside demands from a group of 134 Nobel laureates to release the incarcerated winner of the 2010 Peace Prize, Liu Xiabao, saying Beijing will not tolerate interference in internal affairs.
Liu is in jail for 11 years for inciting subversion and China had said a
firm no to his picking up the prize two years.
Beijing’s dismissal comes as Mo Yan, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in literature is in Sweden to receive the honour.
After winning the Nobel in October, Mo had unpredictably called for the release of Liu.
"I hope he can achieve his freedom as soon as possible," Mo had told reporters in his hometown of Gaomi in the northern province of Shandong.
Beijing reaction was muted then but on Wednesday, the foreign ministry came out strongly against the appeal written in an open letter addressed to Communist Party of China leader Xi Jinping to release Liu.
Among those who signed the letter were Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and author Toni Morrison.
“China is firmly opposed to the outside world interfering into China's judicial sovereignty and internal affairs in any form,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a press briefing.
"China is a country under the rule of law. Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to imprisonment by China's judicial authorities for violating the law."
In their letter, the 134 Nobel laureates noted that no government "can restrict freedom of thought and association without having a negative effect on... important human innovation".
They said they hoped China's new political leadership will "take concrete steps towards embracing the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens".
"An essential first step is the immediate and unconditional release of Dr. Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia," they wrote.
Liu Xia, according to AFP, has been held incommunicado under house arrest since October 2010, when her husband was awarded the prize. No charges have been brought against her.
Hong refused comment on her situation, but insisted that "the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals are protected by China's constitution and laws".