After more than 14 days in detention it now appears that Chinese authorities intend to seriously prosecute the dissident literary scholar, Liu Xiaobo, for signing up to a campaign for political and rights reform.
Liu Xiaobo has been detained for over two weeks without the Chinese authorities releasing information about his arrest. Anyone held for longer than 14 days without formal arrest is considered a "major suspect" by Chinese criminal procedure law.
Charter 08, initially signed by approximately 300 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials, proposes a blueprint for fundamental legal and political reform in China, with the goal of a democratic system that respects human rights. Since the Charter 08 launch, Chinese authorities have questioned and harassed numerous signatories, but Liu Xiaobo remains the only known signatory in detention.
Amnesty International has urged China's authorities to release Liu Xiaobo immediately. Liu Xiaobo is one of China’s best-known dissidents. He was arbitrarily detained twice previously for his writings and his support of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing, when he spent several years in detention.
"If Liu Xiaobo is to ultimately be charged with state security crimes, it would be yet another example of how Chinese authorities are using the criminal law to squash pleas for reform," said Roseann Rife, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Programme.
Chinese authorities seized Liu Xiaobo at his home in Beijing on 8 December, two days before the Charter 08 planned launch, which was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amnesty International has called on the authorities to make public any information about his alleged crimes, the charges against him and his current whereabouts. Liu Xiaobo should also be allowed full access to legal counsel of his choice.
The police failed to give Liu Xiaobo's family information about where he was detained or to provide a detention notice within 24 hours. These are both violations of the Criminal Procedure Law and the public security regulation regarding the procedures for handling criminal cases. Liu's family-appointed lawyer has been unable to speak with Liu Xiaobo.
"The Chinese authorities must stop the ongoing harassment, detention, prosecution and imprisonment of Chinese human rights defenders and activists who peacefully exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association," said Roseann Rife. "We urge that that they free Liu Xiaobo immediately."