President Obama on Friday praised Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for his Nobel Peace Prize win and called on the Chinese government to release Liu from prison.

He is serving an 11-year sentence for "subversion" related to his authoring of a treatise demanding broad political reform in the country.

Obama, who won last year's Peace Prize, noted in a statement that "many others who have received the award [have] sacrificed" much more than he has.


"That list now includes Mr. Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs," he said. "By granting the prize to Mr. Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

He added that Chinese political reform "has not kept pace" with the country's economic progress during the last 30 years.

"As I said last year in Oslo, even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal to all human beings," he said. "The basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected. We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible." 

The statement is certain to upset Beijing, which blasted the award and blacked out news of the prize. "The awarding of the peace prize by the committee to this person completely contradicts its aims and is an obscenity against the peace prize," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement on the ministry's website

Liu, a pro-democracy activist, was most recently jailed in December 2009.

The Nobel Committee noted that he has been a spokesman for non-violent reform in China for more than two decades — participating in the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and authoring a political manifesto known as "Charter 08" criticizing the Chinese government and calling on its to recognize citizens' human and democratic rights. 

The prize was the first for a Chinese dissident in more than three decades.