Liu Xiaobo Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

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Liu Xiaobo Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

Conviction Signals Increased Political Intolerance, Makes a Mockery of Rule of Law

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, December 25, 2009) – Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), China’s best-known dissident intellectual, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” today by the Beijing No. 1 Municipal Court. Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison, with two years’ deprivation of political rights.

“Liu’s sentence is one of the longest handed down for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ in recent years,” said Renee Xia, international director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. “Giving such a long sentence to one of China’s most prominent dissident intellectuals is a clear sign that the Chinese government is further hardening its stance against political dissent. Officials have left no doubt that the legal system, despite any promise of reform, is still to be used as a tool for the government to stamp out its critics, even as the world is watching.”

The vague and ill-defined crime of “inciting subversion of state power” has been used by Chinese authorities to detain and imprison individuals solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The cases we have documented show that most individuals convicted of “inciting subversion” are sentenced to less than five years’ imprisonment.

Liu’s conviction was based entirely on his writings, nonviolent expressions of his own opinions. By writing social commentaries and political essays for the past 20 years despite imprisonment, detention, and police harassment, Liu has become a leader among China’s increasingly bold pro-democracy and human rights activists. However, he has unnerved the rulers of the Communist Party with new sparks of political dissent inspired by Charter 08 and its 10,000 signatories, a bold challenge to their power unseen since the 1989 pro-democracy protests.

Along with Charter 08, six articles written by Liu Xiaobo between October 2005 and July 2007 were cited as evidence and used to convict him. These articles include:

  • “CCP’s Dictatorial Patriotism,” in which Liu points out that the CCP government has no democratic legitimacy to represent the Chinese people, nor does its ideology, including “officially-promoted patriotism,” speak for Chinese culture;
  • “Who Said Chinese People Only Deserve Accepting ‘Party-Rule Democracy?’” In this article, Liu criticizes a white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council, entitled “China’s Construction of Democratic Democracy,” for rejecting the universality of democratic rights;
  • “Political Reform through Social Change,” in which Liu advocates non-violent disobedience, calling on citizens to stand up against repression.
  • “Many Facets of CCP Dictatorship,” in which Liu tries to explain that widespread corruption is a symptom of the growing illegitimacy of the CCP’s dictatorial rule.
  • “Negative Impact of Rising Dictatorship on Democratization,” in which Liu criticizes President Hu Jintao’s foreign policy of “promising China’s commitment to peaceful rise;”
  • And “Follow-up Questions about the Case of Illegal Child Labor Brick Factories,” denouncing the government’s cover-up and disregard for the lives of young children.

The entire process, from the arrival of police at Liu’s home on December 8, 2008 through today’s verdict announcement, has been marred by violations of Liu’s legal, constitutional, and human rights.

  • The defendant and his defense lawyers were not allowed to fully present their defense in court during Liu’s trial on December 23. The presiding judge interrupted Liu Xiaobo and cut him short during his prepared remarks. Liu’s two lawyers, Shang Baojun (尚宝军) and Ding Xikui (丁锡奎), were given a total of less than 20 minutes to present their arguments on behalf of Liu during a trial which lasted only three hours. Liu’s lawyers entered a non-guilty plea, arguing that Liu’s writings neither “incited” violence nor had any intention of, or impact on, “subverting” the state.
  • Liu’s trial was essentially closed to the public. With the exception of two family members—Liu’s younger brother and his brother-in-law—all other spectators in the small courtroom were young males in plain clothes, apparently put there to occupy the seats by government officials. This is a typical ploy used to circumvent the legal requirement for “public” trials, and has been used often in politically sensitive trials. Dozens of supporters, joined by reporters and diplomats from the Czech Republic, Germany, Canada, the US, the UK, Italy, Australia, Norway, Sweden, and EU were barred from observing the trial by security guards who blocked the entrance to the court, stating that all permits to observe the trial had been given out.
  • Liu’s wife, Liu Xia (刘霞), was denied a permit to attend as well after the authorities listed her as a witness for the prosecution. Police stood outside her apartment to block her from leaving or receiving visitors during her husband’s trial. Several dozen supporters were prevented from leaving their homes in Beijing, and a dozen or so were detained on their way to the trial. One of Liu’s two lawyers was momentarily harassed and blocked from entering the courtroom.
  • Once Liu’s case was turned over to the Beijing Municipal Procuratorate in early December, his lawyers were given very little time to prepare his defense. Liu’s lawyers were notified of the trial date only three days before it was set to begin, and the trial took place only twelve days after Liu was indicted by the Beijing Municipal Procuratorate on December 11.
  • From December 8, 2008, to June 23, 2009, Liu was held under “residential surveillance” at an undisclosed location in Beijing. Except for two visits from his wife, Liu had no contact with the outside world for six months. During this entire period, Liu was being held without being formally detained or arrested, Once Liu was formally arrested and allowed legal representation, officials barred Beijing lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) from representing Liu because Mo had signed Charter 08 and was labeled a “co-defendant” in Liu’s case by the authorities.

CHRD reiterates its call for Liu’s immediate and unconditional release.

Officials responsible for Liu’s year-long arbitrary detention must be held accountable according to the law.

Authorities must provide remedies to all damages caused by police actions against Mr. Liu and other signatories of Charter 08, including “soft detention” or residential surveillance, raids of private homes and confiscation of personal belongings.

Liu has been arbitrarily detained for one year and will now sent to prison for 11 years. Not only have his procedural rights as a criminal defendant been violated, so too have his basic human rights, as a Chinese citizen and a member of the international community. He is a victim of political persecution by the Chinese government, and has been targeted solely for the peaceful activities of expressing his personal opinions in writing and organizing fellow citizens to promote human rights and democracy.

For More Information, Please See:

“Liu Xiaobo to be Tried for “Inciting Subversion of State Power” on December 23,” December 21, 2009,

“Procuratorate Delivers Indictment against Liu Xiaobo, Trial Date to Be Set,” December 11, 2009,

“Human Rights Day in China: Liu Xiaobo Accused of ‘Major Crime’ for Drafting Charter 08,” December 10, 2009, /Article/Class9/Class10/200912/20091210040528_18780.html

“As Charter 08 Anniversary Nears, Liu Xiaobo Languishes Behind Bars without Trial,” December 3, 2009, /Article/Class9/Class15/200912/20091203054539_18667.html

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

“Over One Hundred Signatories Harassed Since Launch of Charter 08,” January 8, 2009,

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

“Chinese Government Responds with a Crackdown on Activists for Commemorating 60th Anniversary of UDHR,” December 9, 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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