Update to UN on Liu Xianbin – July 13, 2012Comments Off on Update to UN on Liu Xianbin – July 13, 2012
To: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) hereby respectfully submits an update to its urgent appeal in the case of democracy activist Mr. LIU Xianbin, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on March 25, 2011 for “inciting subversion” (See CHRD’s website for earlier submissions with respect to Mr. Liu Xianbin’s case: https://www.nchrd.org/2010/07/12/un-work-on-cases-liu-xianbin-july-12-2010/). On that same day, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said of Mr. Liu’s sentence: “The extremely harsh sentencing of Liu Xianbin confirms the severe limits being imposed on freedom of expression in China, and is another example of the escalating clampdown on the activities of human rights defenders.”
The Suining Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan Province issued a seven-page decision on the same day Mr. Liu was tried, a fact that strongly suggests that Mr. Liu’s conviction of “inciting subversion” and his 10-year sentence were decided in advance of his trial. Closely tracking the indictment, the court’s opinion focuses on online essays written by Mr. Liu as the basis for his conviction. Included among those essays, which appeared on overseas Chinese language websites such as the Independent Chinese PEN Center website and the online journals Democratic China and Humanity and Human Rights, are: “My 20 Years in the Democracy Movement: The Arrest of Chen Wei (Part 1),” “Out of Jail for 100 Days,” and “Street Protests are an Important Tactic for the Chinese Democratic Movement.” The decision also quotes a few phrases from Mr. Liu’s essays which the court deemed “slanderous” – e.g., “Chinese citizens live under the rule of terror of a police state,” “the Chinese Communist Party has always pursued a highly repressive rule of terror,” and language that reflects his ideas about the formation of a political opposition organization. The court’s opinion demonstrates that Mr. Liu was convicted of “inciting subversion” solely for the expression of his peaceful opinions and beliefs, which he communicated in written essays published online.
Accordingly, Mr. Liu’s deprivation of liberty falls squarely within Category II of the Working Group’s framework for determining whether a detention is arbitrary.
The expression of ideas and opinions by Mr. Liu is clearly protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Indeed, the Working Group reiterated in a recent opinion on the case of Mr. Chen Wei, a human rights activist who is also from Suining, Sichuan, that “the holding and expression of opinions, including those which are not in line with official government policy, are protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (See Opinion No. 7/2012 (China), para. 23 (A/HRC/WGAD/2012/7)). CHRD also believes that Liu’s detention is in retaliation for his longstanding rights activism, which has included membership in the China Democracy Party (he was a founding member of the Sichuan branch of the CDP in 1998), signing of the human rights and democracy manifesto “Charter 08,” and vocal support for fellow persecuted activists.
“Inciting subversion of state power” (article 105(2) of the PRC Criminal Law) is a vague crime commonly used by the Chinese Government to prosecute activists and dissidents for peaceful expression and other conduct protected under international human rights law. As the Working Group noted in its opinion in Mr. Chen Wei’s case: “The fact that . . . peaceful expressions of opinion are criminalized under domestic law as the ‘incited subversion of state power and overthrowing of the socialist system’ does not deprive him of his right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (See Opinion No. 7/2012 (China), para. 21 (A/HRC/WGAD/2012/7)).
Mr. Liu’s trial in the Suining Intermediate People’s Court was plagued by procedural violations. Mr. Liu had limited access to his lawyers before his quick two-hour trial. As mentioned above, it is highly likely that the verdict and sentence were predetermined. During the proceeding, the presiding judge frequently interrupted Mr. Liu’s lawyers as they attempted to present their defense statements, and Mr. Liu himself was repeatedly cut off by the judge as he tried to speak; in the end he was only able to say a few words in his defense.
Of Mr. Liu’s family and supporters, only his wife and brother were permitted to attend the trial. Moreover, police restricted the personal liberty of local activists before the trial, presumably to prevent them from trying to attend the trial or congregate outside the courthouse. Furthermore, four petitioners and rights activists from Chengdu, Sichuan—Deng Pinfang (邓品芳), Li Renyu (李仁玉), Kan Siyun (阚思云), and Peng Tianhui (彭天惠)—who had traveled to Suining to attend Mr. Liu’s trial were seized by Suining police shortly after they arrived and immediately taken back to Chengdu. Peng, Kan, and Li were each given seven days of administrative detention. What should have been a public trial was, in fact, a de facto closed hearing (See article 152 of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law). Consequently, in light of the violations of Mr. Liu’s fair trial rights, his deprivation of liberty also falls within Category III of the Working Group’s framework.
Liu is currently serving his 10-year sentence in Chuanzhong Prison in Nanchong City, Sichuan.
Ms. Renee Xia, International Director
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)