In a trial lasting less than two hours and marked with procedural irregularities, a Sichuan court sentenced Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌), a signer of Charter 08 and long-time advocate of democratic reform in China, to ten years in prison and two years and four months of deprivation of political rights.
Liu’s wife, Chen Mingxian (陈明先), who attended the trial and saw her husband for the first time since he was detained in June 2010, said, “The judge interrupted Liu many times and did not give him a chance to read his prepared statement. The judge also kept cutting off Liu’s lawyer when was presenting the defense statement.” She added that after the verdict was announced, Liu declared: “I'm innocent. I protest!”
Chen had not been hopeful about a light sentence: “Liu Xianbin has followed an idealistic path which is filled with thorns and hardships. As husband and wife, we’ve been apart longer than together. But this is what I have chosen.”
“Liu Xianbin’s heavy sentence silences a voice of conscience of China, and undermines rule of law itself,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). “The sentence also makes clear that, as the Jasmine Rallies continue, the authorities have abandoned even the semblance of ‘governing the country according to law,’ in order to place tighter control over the society and stifle independent voices. We urge the international community to closely monitor this trend,” said Hom.
The Suining Municipal Intermediate People's Court, where the trial took place, did not issue a written verdict. The indictment, citing Liu’s previous two imprisonments for “endangering state security,” charged that, during the post-release period of deprivation of political rights from 2008 to 2010, Liu wrote several essays and published them overseas to incite the subversion of state power and overturn of the socialist system. These essays named in the indictment include: “My 20 Years in the Democracy Movement: Chen Wei’s Arrest (part 1)” (我的民运二十年：陈卫被捕（之一）), “Street Movement Is an Important Form of Democracy Movement” (街头运动是民主运动的重要形式), and “100 Days Out of Jail” (出狱一百天). (See below for English translation of excerpts from two of the essays.)
In 1991, Liu Xianbin was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his involvement in the 1989 Democracy Movement. He continued his efforts to promote democracy after his release, founding the magazine Citizens Forum (公民论坛) and the Sichuan branch of China Human Rights Watch (中国人权观察四川分部). In 1999, he was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment and three years’ deprivation of political rights on charges of “subversion of state power.”
Liu’s sentence was reduced for good behavior. After his release in November 2008, he continued to actively participate in rights-defense activities. His activities included writing articles to call for political reform and vocally supporting Tan Zuoren (谭作人), a Sichuan-based environmental activist and writer, and Huang Qi (黄琦), also a Sichuan-based rights activist, both of whom were sent to prison for their work exposing the shoddy construction that led to the massive loss of lives during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Liu also initiated a yellow ribbon campaign for the release of Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞).
For his work in the democracy and rights defense movement, Liu has been called a “guardian of conscience.” When he was detained in 2010, activists from seventeen provinces across China and abroad organized the “I am Liu Xianbin” campaign appealing for his release. A group of lawyers formed a legal defense fund for the case. From August 1, 2010, to January 2011, his supporters participated in a “citizens relay hunger strike” to show solidarity with Liu.
The following are excerpts from Liu Xianbin’s writings (English translation by Human Rights in China):
From “100 Days Out of Jail” (2009)
My daughter was two when I entered prison. That night, she did not stop crying. Her crying tore at my heart for those nine years. When I went in, I did not plan to accept a sentence reduction [which would require, among other things, admission of quilt]. But when I thought about my daughter who was growing up, I decided to choose sentence reduction … but I would not admit guilt. If they were to force me, I would rather have my family suffer along with me.
From “Street Movement Is an Important Form of Democracy Movement” (2010)
Street movement is an important form of democracy movement. It is a stage that a society must go through in order to achieve democratic transformation. It is the unavoidable result of the prolonged refusal of an autocratic regime to take the initiative to carry out social transformation. It is also the natural manifestation following the people’s general awakening to the meaning of human rights and civil rights.
For more information on Liu Xianbin, see:
- “Case Update: Dissident Liu Xianbin Arrested on Suspicion of Inciting Subversion of State Power,” July 6, 2010
- “Veteran Dissident Liu Xianbin Placed in Criminal Detention Again,” June 29, 2010,
- Liu Xianbin, “The Peasants Need Democracy: An Investigation of Rural Problems in Sichuan,” China Rights Forum, 1997, Spring