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Updated: May 17, 2010 14:57 IST

China upholds 11-year sentence for leading dissident

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Liu Xia, wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, right, meets with journalists after attending Mr. Liu's appeal hearing in Beijing, on Thursday. Photo: AP.
Liu Xia, wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, right, meets with journalists after attending Mr. Liu's appeal hearing in Beijing, on Thursday. Photo: AP.

A Chinese court on Thursday rejected leading dissident Liu Xiaobo’s appeal against an 11-year prison sentence for subversion, prompting new calls for his release from EU and US officials.

Mr. Liu had lodged his appeal after a Beijing court’s decision on December 25 to imprison him on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” The charges against Liu related to his organization of Charter ’08, a blueprint for the transformation of Communist-ruled China into a liberal democracy, and to political essays he posted on the internet.

Reacting to Thursday’s rejection of Mr. Liu’s appeal, the European Union said the decision was “entirely incompatible with his right to freedom of expression.” “The EU calls on the Chinese government unconditionally to release Mr Liu and to end the harassment and detention of other signatories of Charter ‘08,” an EU statement said.

Michael Schaefer, the German ambassador to China, was among several diplomats who waited outside the Beijing court for the verdict. Mr. Liu’s wife was inside the court although no diplomats or supporters of Mr. Liu were allowed into the building.

US Ambassador Jon Huntsman, said his government was “disappointed” and urged that Mr. Liu “should be released immediately.” “Persecution of individuals for the peaceful expression of political views is inconsistent with internationally recognized norms of human rights,” Mr. Huntsman said in a statement.

“The confirmation of the prison sentence is without question a political judgement,” said Guenter Nooke, the German government’s envoy on human rights issues. ”... Mr. Liu’s arrest and imprisonment drew widespread condemnation from Western politicians and human rights groups.

“By upholding the verdict the court missed an opportunity to right the wrong,” Roseanne Rife, Asia-Pacific deputy director of London-based Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Several Chinese rights activists noted that Thursday’s verdict coincided with the 20th anniversary of former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years.

Beijing-based Ai Weiwei, a world-renowned artist and architect, wrote a blog posting urging fellow supporters to “remember Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s words.” “Hate will destroy a person’s wisdom and conscience; animosity will poison a people’s spirit, inflame a brutal fight for life and death, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and impede a nation’s progress towards liberal democracy,” Mr. Ai quoted Liu as saying.

Activists in Hong Kong staged a protest in support of Mr. Liu outside the territory’s main liaison office for China’s ruling Communist Party.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, declined to comment on Mr. Liu’s appeal, but he told reporters that China had “no dissidents.” In Charter ‘08, 303 leading dissidents, activists and writers set out their ideals for building a democratic nation and lamented a lack of “freedom, equality and human rights” under the ruling Communist Party.

The charter is modelled on Charter ‘77, written by intellectuals in the former Czechoslovakia.

Former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel, who signed Charter ’77 as a dissident writer, also joined the calls for Mr. Liu’s freedom.

More than 150 leading US - and European-based intellectuals - including award-winning writers Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Seamus Heaney and Hari Kunzru - issued an open letter calling for Mr. Liu’s release in late 2008.

This month, 91 Czech and Slovak lawmakers nominated Mr. Liu for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Liu, 54, a writer and critic, was previously imprisoned for his role in China’s 1989 democracy movement.

He was detained again in December 2008, shortly before the release of Charter ‘08, which he co-organized.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders rights group quoted Mr. Liu as saying before his trial that he believed his prosecution violated the Chinese constitution as well as international human rights conventions.

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