Friday, 26 June 2009

Liu Xiaobo’s arrest condemned in China and around the world

The arrest of Liu, a signatory to Charter 08, is badly received and criticised by pro-democracy Chinese, who want the right to speak their mind. Liu’s arrest “deserves full condemnation,” says US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called on the international community to do likewise.

People who signed Charter 08 expressed yesterday their solidarity with pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo after his arrest was made official. They also announced they intend to continue their fight for freedom and democracy in the country. US authorities condemn the decision, calling on China to release Mr Liu immediately.

A strong supporter of democratic reforms since the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, Mr Liu is a signatory and perhaps the author of Charter 08, an open letter to the authorities which calls for greater freedom, democracy and an independent judiciary. Back on 8 December 2008 police took the dissident away to a secret location, but many hoped he would eventually be freed shortly thereafter. Many other signatories have also been interrogated and arrested in the past few months, but without any specific charges brought against them.

Yesterday however, Mr Liu was charged inciting subversion of state power, a broad charge that can refer to any type of criticism of government action. If found guilty, Mr Liu could get at least 15 years in prison. Other signatories to Charter 08 (about 10,000 signatories so far despite censorship and persecution) were clearly disappointed by the government’s decision.

“I hoped my motherland was a civilised country, but it isn't. I feel ashamed to be living in a country which arbitrarily takes away an individual's rights,” said retired philosophy professor Xu Youyu.

Mr Liu was only using peaceful means, his pen, to promote democracy and constitutional reform, matters which should not be viewed as subversive in any country governed by the rule of law, said Law professor He Weifang.

Writer Dai Qing, who was jailed for supporting the 1989 student movement, said the arrest shattered her hopes in the government. In her view Beijing is incapable of coping with the growing dissatisfaction in the population for the lack of human, civil and economic rights. She noted that for similar charges other people were summarily tried and their right to legal counsel was restricted, people like Hu Jia who was sentenced to three and half years in prison for publishing a number of articles online in which he said China needed democracy.

In Hong Kong Charter 08 was signed by several members of the Region’s Legislative Council. Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Democratic Party, is one of them. Reacting to the news of Liu’s formal charges, he said that he would defy Beijing and travel to the mainland even if this meant that he might be arrested.

Liu Xiaobo is also well-known in the United States and US authorities did not wait long before making their views known.

“The US government is deeply disturbed by reports that Liu Xiaobo has been formally arrested and charged with serious crimes,” said Richard Buangan, a spokesman for the US embassy in Beijing. “We call on the government of China to release Mr Liu and respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognised freedoms,” he added.

Liu’s arrest “deserves the full condemnation,” said US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who urged the international community to do the same.

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