Beijing Police Formally Arrest Liu Xiaobo on Inciting Subversion Charge
Chinese public security officials formally arrested prominent intellectual Liu Xiaobo on June 23, 2009, on the charge of "inciting subversion of state power," according to the Xinhua News Agency (as reported by Singapore Lianhe Zaobao on June 24). The Commission has not been able to locate the original Chinese-language Xinhua article through a publicly available source online, although numerous media and NGO reports in Chinese have quoted directly from it. (See, e.g., June 24 BBC report, June 24 Chinese Human Rights Defenders report).
Chinese public security officials formally arrested prominent intellectual Liu Xiaobo on June 23, 2009, on the charge of "inciting subversion of state power," according to the Xinhua News Agency (as reported by Singapore Lianhe Zaobao on June 24). The Commission has not been able to locate the original Chinese-language Xinhua article through a publicly available source online, although numerous media and NGO reports in Chinese have quoted directly from it. (See, e.g., June 24 BBC report, June 24 Chinese Human Rights Defenders report). The Commission was able to locate an English-language Xinhua report (via China Daily), dated June 24, which quoted a statement from the Beijing Public Security Bureau as saying: "Liu has been engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading of rumors and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years."
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), an NGO that monitors human rights developments in China, also said that Beijing police have barred prominent defense lawyer Mo Shaoping from representing Liu, according to a June 24 report. CHRD reported that authorities said it was because Mo was a fellow signatory of Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and greater protection of human rights in China.
The underlying basis for the charge against Liu is unclear, but officials took Liu into custody on December 8, 2008, a day before Charter 08's release. More than 300 Chinese citizens released the charter on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, more than 8,000 persons have signed the document, a substantial majority of whom reside in China.
In the months after taking Liu into custody, officials kept Liu in residential surveillance under conditions that violated Chinese laws, including denying Liu access to counsel and keeping him at an undisclosed location beyond the legal time limit for residential surveillance.
The charge of "inciting subversion" refers to a crime under Article 105 of China's Criminal Law. Article 105, Paragraph 2 makes inciting others "by spreading rumors or slanders or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system," a crime punishable by up to five years in prison, or no less than five years for "ringleaders and the others who commit major crimes." Chinese officials have frequently relied on the "inciting subversion" crime to punish citizens who publicly criticize the government, often in essays appearing on the Internet. (See, e.g., Yang Chunlin, Hu Jia, Lu Gengsong).
The 53-year old former university professor has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government. According to a June 24 Associated Press report (via Google), "in [Liu's] writings, most published only on the Internet, Liu has called for civil rights and political reform, making him subject to routine harassment by authorities." In 2008, Liu was detained on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen protests and prevented from meeting Members of the U.S. Congress. In 1996, he was sentenced to 3 years' reeducation through labor for his writings on political reform, and in 1989 he was detained for 20 months after the 1989 Tiananmen Democracy protests. For more information, see Liu Xiaobo's record in the Commission's Political Prisoner Database.
For more information, see CECC analysis of officials' extension of Liu's residential surveillance beyond the legal time limit, CECC analysis of official harassment of Charter 08 signers, censorship of Charter 08 on the Chinese Internet, and the legality of Liu's residential surveillance, and CECC analysis of the Charter 08 document and initial reports of Liu's detention.