Friday, December 25, 2009

Trying to Silence Dissent

Christmas is not marked as a public holiday in China, though there are lots of decorations and shopping malls using it as an excuse to have sales, while restaurants hope the festive atmosphere will bring in more customers.

But the Chinese government specifically chose this day to come out with a verdict of human rights activist Liu Xiaobo's trial that only started on Wednesday.

While most of the western world is busy getting ready for Christmas, China decided to take this opportunity to try one of its most prominent dissidents after holding him in custody for over a year without a charge.

Two days after a trial that only lasted two hours, Liu has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of the state.

According to The Dui Hua Foundation, this is the longest sentence handed down since the crime was established in the 1997 reform of the criminal law.

Liu's crime?

While he did participate in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and was jailed for that, this time it was the 53-year-old's hand in co-authoring Charter 08, a magna carta calling for multi-party elections, and guaranteeing human rights, freedom of expression and religion. Originally some 300 of China's top intellectuals signed it and now there are over 10,000 signatures.

However anything related to Charter 08 are blocked on the Internet and there was a complete news blackout of his trial in state media, though many Chinese I know were very concerned about his case. Some 400 people showed up in front of the courthouse, and some even offered to go to jail with Liu.

The verdict is a very strong signal to anyone that if they dare try to subvert the government in any way, they too can face over a decade in jail. It's one of those "kill the chicken to scare the monkeys" tactics.

Many western diplomats in Beijing tried to attend the hearing, but were shut out of the courtroom; Liu's wife Liu Xia wasn't even allowed in either, claiming she was a witness.

As a result many western diplomats are critical of the trial, as it doesn't look like it was conducted according to the rule of law.

Ironically, a statement from the First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing Municipality said, "The court had strictly followed the legal procedures in this case and fully protected Liu's litigation rights. The trial was open go the public. Two lawyers defended Liu at the trial and his family were present."

Is anyone supposed to believe that?

China doesn't seem to care what others think, considering this to be its own internal affair.

Now the debate is over whether Liu will have to serve the entire sentence or not.

He probably will not be interested in trading his freedom for exile, as he seems very determined to be in China fighting for people's rights.

The Chinese government are using him as a scapegoat for Charter 08, but many others see him as a fighter and his work and unshakeable belief in a better China will not be forgotten.


gg said...

what a shame. this set back china in the international stage millions of times. all the olympic and national celebration images are washed away. china is still backward as ever, still in qing dynasty.

ks said...

back to the qing dynasty. then when you say something bad about the emperor you can have your head chopped off. it was called "prison of words"