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Court Affirms 11-Year Sentence for Liu Xiaobo against International Appeal for His Release

February 11, 2010

On February 11, 2010, the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court reviewed Liu Xiaobo’s (刘晓波) appeal and upheld his “inciting subversion of state power” conviction and 11-year sentence by a lower court. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia (刘霞), told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that in court, after the decision was read, Liu said these three words: I’m not guilty. 

“This decision once again illustrates that Chinese courts are a political tool for control and cannot and will not protect the rights of citizens,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.

Liu, one of China’s most respected public intellectuals, is co-author of Charter 08, an online petition that calls for political reform. Liu was detained on December 9, 2008, one day after the petition began circulating. He was tried on December 23, 2009 in the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, and was convicted and sentenced on Christmas Day.

To human rights advocates inside China and the international community, the case of Liu Xiaobo is a clear signal of increasing official intolerance of free speech. Teng Biao (滕彪), rights defense lawyer and a Charter 08 signer, condemns the ruling. In a statement to HRIC, Teng said: “The government has completely replaced rule by law with political considerations. The harsh sentence for Liu Xiaobo also illustrates that while this regime appears strong on the surface, it actually lacks self-confidence.” Teng added, “Not only is he innocent, he’s an excellent example of someone who practices the spirit of citizenship and promotes freedom and democracy.”

The ruling prompted immediate international protest, including statements by the European Union and the United States, both calling for Liu’s immediate release. Since Liu’s conviction and sentencing in December 2009, prominent international figures, including Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have publicly supported Liu and criticized the Chinese government, and have recommended him for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Hom said, “As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘those upholding justice will find help all around; an unjust cause will find little support’ (得道多助,失道寡助, dedaoduozhu, shidaoguazhu). The injustice of the court decision puts the Chinese government in an isolated human rights position in the international community.”

Liu, 54, is a long-time critic of the Chinese government. He 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 detention on December 8, 2008. In the weeks before Liu’s trial, more than 450 co-signatories of Charter 08 signed an online statement to declare their collective responsibility for Liu’s actions.


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