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Court upholds 11-year prison sentence for leading pro-democracy activist

Court upholds 11-year prison sentence for leading pro-democracy activist

Published on Wednesday 10 February 2010. Updated on Thursday 21 October 2010.
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A Beijing appeal court yesterday upheld leading dissident Liu Xiaobo’s 11-year jail sentence on a charge of “subverting state authority” for expressing his views online and helping to draft Charter 08. The court announced its decision to Liu at a very short hearing.

“We continue to be deeply shocked by the Chinese government’s insistence on such a harsh punishment for an activist and intellectual who is renowned throughout the world,” Reporters Without Borders said.

read Charter 08 below


25.12.2009 - Eleven-year jail sentence for free speech activist Liu Xiaobo, court sneakily issues verdict on Christmas Day

Reporters Without Borders is profoundly shocked by this unbelievable and outrageous sentence. A Beijing court today sentenced leading Chinese free speech activist Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波) to eleven years in prison on a charge of subverting state authority for posting outspoken articles online and helping to draft Charter 08, a call for democratic reform. He had been facing a possible 15-year sentence. The dissident said he would appeal.

“It is a disgrace that Liu Xiaobo is going to spend the next eleven years in prison when all he did was defend free expression and participate in a debate about his country’s future with many other Chinese intellectuals,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is also disgraceful that such a sentence was announced on Christmas Day.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Where are the universal values of freedom of expression that China is supposed to represent in Shanghai in 2010? The national and international pressure for this famous dissident’s release must be redoubled. The international community must not be manipulated by the Chinese authorities, who are trying to minimise reaction by concluding this case during the end-of-year holidays.”

Arrested in December 2008, Liu spent nearly a year in prison before being formally charged with subversion on 12 December. His trial on 23 December was accompanied by a high degree of police surveillance. Dozens of foreign journalists, foreign diplomats and Liu supporters were kept away from the courthouse. Liu’s wife, who had wanted to attend, was prevented from leaving her home.

This is not the first time that the Christmas period has proved to be particularly dangerous for Chinese human rights activists. See the previous release.

Inspired by Charter 77, the charter circulated by Czechoslovak dissidents in 1977, Charter 08 was released on 8 December 2008, two days before the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally signed by some 300 intellectuals and human rights activists, it now has more than 10,000 signatures.

PDF - 102 kb
Charter 08

A former University of Beijing philosophy professor and winner of the Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize in 2004, Liu is committed to the idea that the Chinese media will one day be able to operate as a real fourth estate and stand up to the omnipotent Communist Party.

Examples of some of Liu’s statements about free expression

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