A woman walks past at the entrance of a residential compound where Liu Xia, the wife ofLiu Xiaobo, lives.

Beijing -

More than 100 scholars and activists on Friday appealed to the Chinese government to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and embrace democracy, the rule of law and other “universal values”.

“This is a major event in modern Chinese history,” the letter said of Liu's Nobel prize.

“It offers the prospect of a significant new advance for Chinese society in its peaceful transition toward democracy and constitutional government,” it said.

The names attached to the letter included famous philosopher and democracy activist Xu Youyu and Zhang Zuhua, who had joined Liu in drafting the Charter '08 for democratic reform.

“Liu Xiaobo is a splendid choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has consistently advocated non-violence in his quest to protect human rights and has confronted social injustice by arguing from reason,” they said.

The letter urged China to “join the mainstream of civilised humanity by embracing universal values”.

“We call upon the Chinese authorities to make good on their oft-repeated promise to reform the political system ... and work to bring about peaceful transition toward a society that will be, in fact and not just in name, a democracy and a nation of laws,” it said.

Liu, a prominent writer and one of China's leading dissidents, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December for his part in writing Charter '08.

China's ruling Communist Party reacted angrily to Liu's Nobel award and police have kept many other activists under house arrest or other forms of detention since last week to prevent them from publicly celebrating.

On Wednesday, a group of mostly retired Communist Party officials, academics and state-media editors also issued an open letter urging China's leaders to allow full freedom of speech in accordance with the nation's constitution.

The earlier letter recommended several measures to improve media freedom and said there should be “no more taboos concerning our party's history”.

“Chinese citizens have a right to know the errors of the ruling party,” it said.

Some 370 leading party members opened a meeting on Friday to set long-term economic and social policies.

The four-day meeting of the party's Central Committee is expected to discuss minor democratic reforms under the premise of continued one-party rule. - Sapa-dpa