Trial of Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo begins this week
The Chinese authorities must release a human rights activist who finally goes on trial in Beijing on Wednesday after a year in detention for peacefully exercising his freedom of expression, said Amnesty International. Liu Xiaobo, charged with "inciting subversion of state power", could face a prison sentence of five years or more if he is found guilty. The activist and scholar is one of hundreds of signatories of Charter 08, a proposal for reform in China that aims to achieve a political system that respects human rights. Numerous signatories of the charter have been questioned and harassed by the Chinese authorities since its launch on 9 December 2008. "Liu Xiaobo's detention and trial show that the Chinese government will not tolerate Chinese citizens participating in discussions about their own form of government. After Liu Xiaobo, more than 300 Chinese scholars, lawyers and officials who proposed a blueprint for improving their political system may be at risk, as well as nearly 10,000 signatories," said Sam Zarifi, Director of Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Programme. Liu Xiaobo's Lawyer Shang Baojun said he was informed of the trial date on Sunday. Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia said the court has refused her request to attend the hearing. Shang Baojun said Liu Xiaobo has said he is innocent, because article 35 of China's constitutional law states clearly that a citizen has the right to freedom of expression. Liu Xiaobo was seized from his home in Beijing by police on 8 December, two days before the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The police placed him under "residential surveillance", a form of house arrest with a maximum six-month limit, without charge, access to a lawyer or any due process for more than six months. Liu Xiaobo was re-arrested on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" on 23 June, following a series of crackdowns on activists around the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen anniversary. "China should take this chance to release Liu Xiaobo unconditionally and uphold freedom of expression and the rule of law. Failure to release him and dozens of others detained for standing up for human rights would show that China is not serious about improving its human rights record," said Sam Zarifi. "The Chinese authorities must also stop the ongoing harassment, detention, prosecution and imprisonment of Chinese human rights defenders and activists who are peacefully exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association".