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Liu Xiaobo’s Guilty Verdict and 11-Year Sentence Send Message of Zero Tolerance for Universal Human Rights

December 25, 2009

In one of the most high-profile political trials in China in recent years, a Beijing court today found Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 11 years of imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights.  Liu’s lawyers told Human Rights in China (HRIC) they do not agree with the decision, stating that Liu was merely exercising his right as a citizen to freedom of expression. According to his lawyers and family, Liu plans to appeal.  

“The guilty verdict demonstrates once again the Chinese authorities’ intolerance for free expression and their incapacity to respond constructively to critical voices,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC’s executive director. “But the Chinese government must recognize that the free pass on human rights that it has been receiving from the international community will not insulate it forever from the growing demands of its own people for freedom and democratic reforms.”

“By using the police and security apparatus and the legal system to violate the rights of its citizens, the Chinese government may find itself, in time, subverting its own state power,” said Hom.

The conviction and sentence were pronounced by judge Jia Lianchun (贾连春) of the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court (北京市第一中级人民法院), who previously convicted and sentenced rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) and AIDS activist Hu Jia (胡佳) on similar charges. The government based the conviction on Liu’s role in drafting and organizing the signing of Charter 08, a petition issued in December 2008 calling for human rights protection and political reform, and on six essays Liu published between 2005 and 2007 critical of the Chinese government. (Click here for excerpts selected and translated by Human Rights in China.)

Liu, 53, was detained, imprisoned, and put under house arrest many times for his writing and activism, including a 20-month detention (June 1989 to January 1991) for participating in the 1989 Democracy Movement, and a three-year Reeducation-Through-Labor sentence (October 1996 to October 1999) for criticizing government corruption. Liu continued to write essays about the human rights condition in China and to advocate for political reform up until his most recent detention on December 8, 2008, one day before the release of Charter 08. In the weeks before Liu’s trial, more than 450 co-signatories of Charter 08 signed an online petition accepting collective responsibility.

HRIC urges the Chinese authorities to free Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally, and to respect the rights guaranteed by Chinese law and international human rights law. At this critical juncture, HRIC also urges the international community to stop giving China free passes on human rights in exchange for perceived benefits. The failure of the Chinese government to fully abide by its international obligations has serious human rights consequences for all the citizens of the world.

For more information about the Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 see:


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