As Charter 08 Anniversary Nears, Liu Xiaobo Languishes Behind Bars without Trial

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As Charter 08 Anniversary Nears, Liu Xiaobo Languishes Behind Bars without Trial

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, December 3, 2009) On the official website of Charter 08, two numbers are prominently displayed. One—over 10,000—documents the number of individuals who have signed the document and lent their support to its call for democratization and protection of human rights. The other—359—records the number of days the intellectual and activist Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) has been detained for leading the signature drive for Charter 08 since he was seized on December 8, 2008.

December 9 will mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of Charter 08, and it is an occasion which Liu will not be able to enjoy in the company of his fellow citizens. On November 23, Beijing police notified Liu that the “investigation period” of his case had been extended for an additional two months. Liu is currently detained in Beijing’s Number One Detention Center, where he has been since his formal arrest for “inciting subversion of state power” on June 23, 2009. Prior to his arrest, Liu was kept under “residential surveillance” at an undisclosed location in Beijing.

The “investigation period” of Liu’s case has previously been extended twice; according to the Criminal Procedural Law, an “investigation period” may be extended for a third and final time “in the case of a criminal suspect who may be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of ten years at least” (Article 127). If convicted of “inciting subversion of state power,” Liu faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. However, Chinese police do not always follow such legal guidelines, especially when it comes to high-profile political cases like Liu’s.

Liu met with his lawyers Shang Baojun (尚宝军) and Ding Xikui (丁锡奎) on November 25 at Number One Detention Center to discuss the outlook of his case. They were not optimistic. According to Shang, “the situation isn’t very good.” He continued, “there is no need to hold him for so long during the investigation period. What is there to investigate? All the articles have been published online.” Shang speculates that, given the attention Liu’s case has drawn and his status as a prominent intellectual and activist, China’s top leaders have yet to decide how to handle his case, or perhaps officials are dragging their feet because it is near the end of the year.

While the days when the Chinese government would release political prisoners as a token gesture during visits from American heads of state are past, there was some hope that Chinese leaders might make some quiet concessions following Obama’s recent trip to Shanghai and Beijing, where Mr. Obama reportedly raised Liu’s case in private meetings with Chinese leaders. However, days after Obama’s departure, Liu’s detention was extended.

“This shows plainly that President Obama’s vague and general references to ‘universal values’ and his ‘quiet diplomacy’ with the Chinese leaders have not paid off,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “What is needed now is a clear and strong statement from the United States and the international community that the world will not look the other way as Chinese authorities abuse the rights of their own citizens.”


CHRD demands the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo.

Liu has been detained for almost one year, without a trial, solely for the peaceful activities of expressing his opinions and organizing fellow citizens to voice their common concerns and ideas regarding the promotion of human rights and democracy. Liu’s detention violates his rights to freedom of expression and association enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution and also guaranteed in Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (though not ratified). His detention is arbitrary, based on charges that he violated a vague law commonly used to prosecute free speech.

For more information, please see:

“‘Investigation Period’ Extended for Detained Activist-Intellectual Liu Xiaobo,” September 1, 2009,

“Arrested Dissident Writer Liu Xiaobo Meets with Lawyers for First Time”, June 26, 2009,

“Liu Xiaobo Formally Arrested for ‘Inciting Subversion of State Power’”, June 24, 2009,

“Lawyer for Liu Xiaobo Submits Formal Request Demanding Details of Activist’s Detention”, February 12, 2009,

“Liu Xiaobo under Residential Surveillance at Undisclosed Location”, January 2, 2009,

“Crackdown on Charter 08 Widens as More Activists are Interrogated and Intimidated”, December 16, 2008,

“Chinese Government Responds with a Crackdown on Activists for Commemorating 60th Anniversary of UDHR”, December 10, 2008,

“’Inciting Subversion of State Power’: A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech in China”, January 8, 2008,

Media Contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237

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