Charter 08 for reform and democracy in China

Liu Xiaobo: biography

Liu Xiaobo was born on 28 December 1955 and is a Chinese literary critic, writer, professor, and human rights activist who called for political reforms and the end of communist one-party rule in China and was aleading figure in the 1989 Tiananman Square student protests. Mr. Liu saved many lives by convincing students to leave when the authorities began to crack down with brutal and fatal force. He is currently incarcerated as a political prisoner in the People's Republic of China, and has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

He has served as President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center since 2003. On 8 December 2008, Liu was detained in response to his participation with Charter 08. He was formally arrested on 23 June 2009, on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power." He was tried on the same charges on 23 December 2009, and sentenced to eleven years' imprisonment and two years' deprivation of political rights on 25 December 2009.

During his 4th prison term, he was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." He is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China. He is the fourth person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison or detention, after Nazi Germany's Carl von Ossietzky (1935), the Soviet Union's Andrei Sakharov (1975), and Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi (1991). Liu is also the first person since Von Ossietzky to be denied the right to have a representative collect the Nobel prize for him.

Please sign Pen America Center's petition to President Hu Jintao to free Liu Xiaobo here

This page contains a number of articles which profile the sponsor of Charter 08, Mr Liu Xiabao:

'Liu Xiaobo must be freed' - Nobel prize committee

BBC, 10 December 2011: The chairman of the Nobel prize committee has called for the immediate release of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 peace prize.

There were two standing ovations at the ceremony in Oslo for Mr Liu, who was represented only by an empty chair.

China has been angered by the award and has waged a campaign in recent weeks to discredit it.

Nobel chairman Thorbjorn Jagland praised China for lifting millions of people out of poverty.

He called it an "extraordinary achievement" but warned China that its new status as a leading world power meant Beijing "must regard criticism as positive".

He said the Nobel committee was calling for Mr Liu to be freed immediately, saying: "He hasn't done anything wrong."

For its part, China's foreign ministry condemned the ceremony as a "political farce".

"We resolutely oppose any country or any person using the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere with China's internal affairs or infringe upon China's legal sovereignty," said the ministry in a statement.

'Quest for freedom'

During the award ceremony, Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann read out a statement that Mr Liu had made in court during his trial in December 2009.

Continue reading the main story Why China considers Liu Xiaobo a threat1989: leading activist in Tiananmen Square protests for democratisation; jailed for two years1996: spoke out against China's one-party system; sent to labour camp for three years2008: co-author of Charter 08, calling for a new constitution, an independent judiciary and freedom of expression;2009: jailed for subversion for 11 years; verdict says he "had the goal of subverting our country's people's democratic dictatorship and socialist system. The effects were malign and he is a major criminal".Reaction outside Nobel laureate's home Excerpts: Liu Xiaobo's final statementCharter 08: A call for changeLiu Xiaobo: the right choice?
"I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future, free China," said the statement.

"For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme."

Honouring the new laureate, Mr Jagland placed the Nobel diploma on the empty chair marking Mr Liu's absence.

The Nobel chairman compared China's anger at the award to the outcry over peace prizes awarded to other dissidents of their times, including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said Mr Liu was dedicating his prize to "the lost souls from 4 June", those who died in the pro-democracy protests on that date in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

"We can say (Mr) Liu reminds us of Nelson Mandela," he said. The former South African president received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

The UN says it had information that China detained at least 20 activists ahead of the ceremony.

An image of Liu Xiaobo is being thrown on to the facade of the Grand Hotel in the centre of Oslo as night falls, after the city honoured this year's Nobel peace laureate.

 For the first time in more than 70 years the peace prize ceremony has been essentially symbolic, with the recipient in jail and none of the close family members who would be entitled to receive the prize on his behalf allowed to leave China.

The most symbolic moment of all was when the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, placed Liu Xiaobo's medal on a chair on the podium that had been deliberately left empty.

It has been one of the most controversial peace prizes for years.

To China, the award has diminished this prestigious prize.

But to the Nobel committee, China's diplomatic offensive over the award only justifies the choice of Liu Xiaobo as a deserving winner.

A further 120 cases of house arrest, travel restriction, forced relocation and other acts of intimidation have been reported.

The BBC's English and Chinese language websites have been blocked, and BBC TV coverage was blacked out inside China during the ceremony.

Mr Liu, one of China's leading dissidents, is serving an 11-year sentence in a jail in north-east China for state subversion.

Police are stationed outside his home in Beijing where his wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest.

Chinese pressure
Geir Lundestad, the director of the Nobel committee, said 48 foreign delegations attended the Oslo ceremony, 16 countries - including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - turned down the invitation and the Chinese returned their invitation unopened.

Analysts say many of those who stayed away did so as a result of Chinese pressure.

However, Serbia - which had previously said it would not attend - announced on Friday that it would be sending a representative.

The Serbian government, which has warm relations with China, had come under pressure from within the European Union and from political parties and civil society groups in Serbia to attend.

Beijing had sought to prevent anyone travelling from China to Oslo to collect the prize on Mr Liu's behalf.

On the other hand, China said the committee had chosen a criminal convicted under Chinese law to serve the interests of certain Western countries, our correspondent says.

Pressure on dissidents

Liu Xiaobo first came to prominence when he took part in the 1989 protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

He was sent to prison for nearly two years for his role, and has been a critic of the Chinese government ever since.

He was given an 11-year prison sentence in December 2009 for inciting the subversion of state power, a charge which came after he co-authored a document known as Charter 08.

The document calls openly for political reforms in China, such as a separation of powers and legislative democracy.

This year marks the first time since 1936 that the Nobel Peace Prize, now worth $1.5m (£950,000), was not handed out.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas reports from the prison holding Liu Xiaobo

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday again called for Mr Liu to be released "as soon as possible".

Last year's peace prize winner, US President Barack Obama, has also called for his release.

The Chinese government has been furious about the award ever since it was announced in October that Liu Xiaobo had won it.

Beijing says that Mr Liu is a criminal, and insists that giving him a prize is an insult to China's judicial system.

As well as putting Liu Xia, the Nobel laureate's wife, under house arrest, the authorities have put pressure on other activists and dissidents.

Some have been prevented from leaving the country, while others have been forced to leave their homes for the next few days, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

One of those to disappear, it said, was Zhang Zuhua, the man who co-wrote Charter 08.

China imposes blanket ban on Nobel ceremony

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai 12:43PM GMT 25 Nov 2010

Only one of the 140 Chinese guests invited to this year's Nobel Peace prize ceremony has confirmed he will attend, as Beijing continues to hold scores of activists under house arrest.

China remains furious at the award of this year's Nobel Peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, a 54-year-old writer who co-authored Charter '08, a petition for political reform.

Mr Liu has been in detention for almost two years now, and his wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest and banned from outside contact since the prize was announced last month.

Mrs Liu drew up a list of around 140 Chinese guests she said she would like to attend the ceremony in Oslo on the couple's behalf, but most have been placed under house arrest or surveillance.

Wan Yanhai, a Chinese Aids activist who fled to the United States in May, is the only person so far to have confirmed his attendance.

"I heard many people on the list were put on a blacklist and were not allowed, or their family members not even allowed, to leave China.

It's a horrible situation," said Mr Wan.

Yang Jianli, another Chinese democracy activist who is helping to organise attendance at the ceremony, confirmed that Mr Wan was the sole confirmed guest. He said around 30 to 50 seats at the City Hall, where the ceremony will take place, have been reserved for Mr Liu's delegation, and that he continued to hope for a greater turnout.

Liao Tienchi, the chairman of the China branch of PEN, a writers' organisation that promotes freedom of expression, said 20 to 30 Chinese PEN members are currently either under house arrest, surveillance or in labour camps. "In this sensitive time we have warned our members to keep a low profile and not to be too radical," she said.

She suggested that Dai Qing, a Chinese journalist and author who is currently a visiting professor in Canada, may also attend the ceremony. "I am very pessimistic about anyone coming from China's mainland," said Mrs Liao.

She added that Mr Liu's son by his first wife, Liu Tao, is also unlikely to go. "Neither his son or his first wife has appeared in public for many years," said Mrs Liao. "Perhaps it is better for them to maintain their privacy," she added. Read here...

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo

BBC News, 9 October 2010

Liu Xiaobo: Jailed for 11 years in December 2009

Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been named the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The award, announced in Norway's capital Oslo, is certain to anger Beijing, which had earlier warned against the move.

Norwegian Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said Mr Liu was "the foremost symbol of the wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China".

Mr Jagland earlier admitted he knew the choice would be controversial.

He told local television before the announcement: "You'll understand when you hear the name."

'Curtailed freedom'

During the announcement of the award, Mr Jagland said China's new status in the world "must have increased responsibility".

He said that in practice the freedoms enshrined in China's constitution had been "distinctly curtailed for many of China's citizens".

Mr Jagland said the choice had become clear early in the process.

Continue reading the main story “Start QuoteThe Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace”

End Quote Thorbjoern Jagland Nobel Committee president
Mr Liu, 54, was jailed for 11 years on Christmas Day last year for drafting Charter 08, which called for multiparty democracy and respect for human rights in China.

Last month, the Chinese foreign ministry warned the Nobel committee not to award him the prize, saying it would be against Nobel principles.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing says China regards Mr Liu as a criminal and had said that any such award could damage relations between China and Norway.

He says many Chinese will see this as an attack by the West on what they stand for.

No candidates are announced ahead of the Peace Prize but others mentioned in the media included Afghan women's rights activist Sima Samar, Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Nobel committee had to defend last year's controversial Peace Prize choice of US President Barack Obama. Read here... 

A Nobel Prize for a Chinese Dissident

The New York Times, by Vaclav Havel, 20 September 2010

PRAGUE — It is hard to believe that it was more than 30 years ago that we, a group of 242 private citizens concerned about human rights in Czechoslovakia, came together to sign a manifesto called Charter 77. That document called on the Communist Party to respect human rights, and said clearly that we no longer wanted to live in fear of state repression.

Our disparate group included ex-Communists, Catholics, Protestants, workers, liberal intellectuals, artists and writers who came together to speak with one voice. We were united by our dissatisfaction with a regime that demanded acts of obedience on an almost daily basis: Shopkeepers were pressured to put up propaganda signs that read “Workers of the world, unite!” Schoolchildren, students and workers were compelled to march in May Day parades. Office workers had to denounce American imperialism at the start of the workday. Citizens had to “vote” in elections in which the only choice was the ruling party.

Communist parties, then as now, prefer to divide and conquer. After Charter 77 was released, the government did its best to try and break us up. We were detained, and four of us eventually went to jail for several years. The authorities also got back at us in petty ways (including the suspension of driver’s licenses and confiscation of typewriters). Surveillance was stepped up, our homes and offices were searched, and a barrage of press attacks based on malicious lies sought to discredit us and our movement. This onslaught only strengthened our bonds. Charter 77 also reminded many of our fellow citizens who were silently suffering that they were not alone. In time, many of the ideas set forth in Charter 77 prevailed in Czechoslovakia. A wave of similar democratic reforms swept Eastern Europe in 1989.

We never would have guessed that our short manifesto would find an echo in China some 30 years later. In December 2008, a group of 303 Chinese activists, lawyers, intellectuals, academics, retired government officials, workers and peasants put forward their own manifesto titled Charter 08, calling for constitutional government, respect for human rights and other democratic reforms. It was published to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite the best efforts of government officials to keep it off of Chinese computer screens, Charter 08 reached a nationwide audience via the Internet, and new signatories eventually reached more than 10,000.

As in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, the response of the Chinese government was swift and brutal. Dozens if not hundreds of signatories were called in for questioning. A handful of perceived ringleaders were detained. Professional promotions were held up, research grants denied and applications to travel abroad rejected. Newspapers and publishing houses were ordered to blacklist anyone who had signed Charter 08. Most seriously, the prominent writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo, a key drafter of Charter 08, was arrested. Liu had already spent five years in prison for his support of peaceful Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Held for more than a year with limited access to his wife or his lawyer, Liu was put on trial for subversion. In December 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Despite Liu’s imprisonment, his ideas cannot be shackled. Charter 08 has articulated an alternative vision of China, challenging the official line that any decisions on reforms are the exclusive province of the state. It has encouraged younger Chinese to become politically active, and boldly made the case for the rule of law and constitutional multiparty democracy. And it has served as a jumping-off point for a series of conversations and essays on how to get there.

Perhaps most important, as in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, Charter 08 has forged connections among different groups that did not exist before. Before Charter 08, “we had to live in a certain kind of separate and solitary state,” one signatory wrote. “We were not good at expressing our own personal experiences to those around us.”

Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 are changing that, for the better.

Of course, Charter 08 addresses a political milieu very different from 1970s Czechoslovakia. In its quest for economic growth, China has seemed to embrace some features far removed from traditional Communism. Especially for young, urban, educated white-collar workers, China can seem like a post-Communist country. And yet, China’s Communist Party still has lines that cannot be crossed. In spearheading the creation of Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo crossed the starkest line of all: Do not challenge the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power, and do not suggest that China’s problems — including widespread corruption, labor unrest, and rampant environmental degradation — might be connected to the lack of progress on political reform.

For making that very connection in an all too public way, Liu got more than a decade in prison. In an especially spiteful move, the authorities, perhaps fearful that his prison cell would become a political rallying point, have forced him to serve his sentence in the northeastern province of Liaoning, far from his wife Liu Xia and friends in Beijing.

Liu may be isolated, but he is not forgotten. Next month, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee will announce the recipient of the 2010 prize. We ask the Nobel Committee to honor Liu Xiaobo’s more than two decades of unflinching and peaceful advocacy for reform, and to make him the first Chinese recipient of that prestigious award. In doing so, the Nobel Committee would signal both to Liu and to the Chinese government that many inside China and around the world stand in solidarity with him, and his unwavering vision of freedom and human rights for the 1. 3 billion people of China.

Vaclav Havelis the former president of the Czech Republic.Dana Nemcova is a leading Czech human rights advocate, and Vaclav Maly is the bishop of Prague. All three are signatories of Charter 77 and former leaders of the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Read here...

International outcry after Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo sentenced to 11 years

December 26, 2009

China meted out its harshest punishment for subversion in two decades yesterday, sentencing the country’s leading dissident to 11 years in jail in a verdict that provoked international condemnation.

Liu Xiaobo, who organised a petition calling for political freedoms, stood silently in the No 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Beijing to hear the judge declare him guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”.

The guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion in a country where charges are rarely brought unless a court has already seen sufficient evidence to ensure a conviction, and where the sentence in sensitive cases is decided by the Communist Party. Only the severity of the punishment was in doubt.

Liu, who will mark his 54th birthday on Monday, was given no chance to respond to the sentence, but told his wife that he would appeal. “China’s Mandela was born this Christmas,” Beichen, a well-known Chinese blogger, said. A handful of protesters outside the court were removed by police.

Liu’s crime was to publish six articles on the internet, including on the BBC’s Chinese service, and organise the Charter 08, a petition inspired by the Charter 77 dissident movement in communist Czechoslovakia. About 10,000 people have signed it.

Among the demands of Charter 08 was the abolition of the law on subversion. The petition read: “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.”

Liu was allowed to talk to his wife for ten minutes after the verdict. Liu Xia, an artist who has never been interested in her husband’s political activism, told The Times: “Both Xiaobo and I were mentally prepared for today’s verdict. So we are calm.”

She had been allowed into the court after being banned from the two-hour trial on Wednesday. Other than brief visits in January and March, it was the first time that she had seen her husband since he was seized on December 8 last year, hours after the publication of Charter 08.

She said he had prepared a lengthy defence that he had planned to read in court on Wednesday, but the time allocated to him was limited. Friends told Mrs Liu that he said to the court: “Giving me support and strength for 20 years has been the love of my Liu Xia.”

She said: “When I saw him I tried to smile all the time so that he would feel better.”

Her husband has been among the most prominent critics of one-party rule in China, ever since he returned to Beijing from the US to support the Tiananmen Square rally in 1989.

His case has elicited a joint appeal from the European Union and the US. “We continue to call on the Government of China to release him immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views,” Gregory May, a US diplomat, said outside the court.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the verdict cast “an ominous shadow” over China’s commitments to protect human rights. She said: “The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Liu Xiaobo mark a further severe restriction on the scope of freedom of expression in China.”

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said: “I regret it that the Chinese Government, despite great progress in other areas, still massively restricts freedom of opinion.”

Liu’s chief lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told The Times: “We don’t approve of the court’s verdict. No matter what Liu Xiaobo writes in his articles, it’s his freedom of speech, and that is a citizen’s basic right.”

Leading Chinese dissident jailed

Leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been jailed for 11 years for "inciting subversion of state power", after a trial condemned in the West.

The trial, from which Western diplomats and journalists were barred, followed Mr Liu's co-authorship of a document last year urging political reform.

Several people were apparently hurt at a Hong Kong protest over the sentence.

The human rights group Amnesty International condemned the sentence, saying freedom of speech was at stake.

The US also denounced the sentence. China has accused Washington and the EU of meddling in its affairs.

The BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says the sentence shows China does not want anyone to challenge its authority.

'Release him'

"All I can tell you now is 11 years," the defendant's wife, Liu Xia, told reporters. Diplomats said they were told by Mr Liu's lawyers that he had been deprived of his political rights for a further two years.

Micky Bristow, BBC News, Beijing
Liu Xiaobo's sentence could have been worse - he could have been given a maximum of 15 years in prison but no-one is yet suggesting that the activist got off lightly.

Human rights groups and others with knowledge of China's legal system say this is a harsh sentence. Amnesty International said that according to their records this is the longest sentence handed down for this charge since 2003, perhaps longer.

China's Communist Party leaders appear to be sending a message to anyone else who might want to challenge their total grip on power: don't. Chinese people have been given many freedoms since reforms were first begun 30 years ago, but this sentence shows that they have only very limited political rights.

There was immediate US reaction to the sentencing.

"We continue to call on the government of China to release him immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views in favour of universally recognised fundamental freedoms," said embassy official Gregory May at the courthouse.

Mr May was one of a dozen diplomats - from the US, Canada, Australia and several European countries - stopped by authorities from attending the trial and sentencing.

"Persecution of individuals for the peaceful expression of political views is inconsistent with internationally recognised norms of human rights," Mr May said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters this week that statements from embassies calling for Mr Liu's release were "a gross interference of China's internal affairs".

Photographs taken outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Friday show three people being treated on the pavement for injuries.

The Associated Press, which released the images, said a security guard, a protester and a police officer had been hurt during a protest.

Singled out

Mr Liu is a prominent government critic and veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.

“ We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes ”
Charter 08
A writer and former university professor, he has been in jail since 2008, after being arrested for writing a document known as Charter 08.

The charter called for greater freedoms and democratic reforms in China, including an end to Communist one-party rule.

Mr Liu is the only person to have been arrested for organising the Charter 08 appeal, but others who signed it have reportedly being harassed.

Amnesty International said it condemned the sentence imposed on Mr Liu and was "deeply concerned for other Charter 08 signatories and freedom of expression in China".

"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," said Sam Zarifi, director of Amnesty's Asia-Pacific Programme.

In earlier interviews with the BBC, co-signatories of the Charter said they were ready to be punished alongside Mr Liu - not to admit they had done anything wrong, but to stress their ideas were the same.

Abolishing the law on inciting to subvert state power is among the reforms advocated in Charter 08. "We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes," the petition says.

"[Mr Liu] has worked to try to find a way to allow the ordinary citizen to criticise the government or to make proposals to the government, on how the people can participate in government," the head of the law firm defending him, Mo Shaoping, told AFP.

"We pleaded not guilty - his crime is a crime of speech," he said.

More than 300 international writers including Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco and Margaret Atwood have called for Liu's release, saying he should be allowed to express his opinion.

Story from BBC NEWS:  
Published: 2009/12/25 05:16:22 GMT


From The Times, London