China’s Rights Defenders

Brief profiles of some of the Chinese human rights defenders who are in jail, under house arrest or otherwise harassed by the authorities

“I believe that my work has been just, and that someday China will be a free and democratic country. Our people then will bathe in the sunshine of freedom from fear. I am paying a price to move us in that direction, but without the slightest regret. I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer.”

– Liu Xiaobo, on December 29, 2009, shortly after being sentenced to 11 years in prison for “subversion of state power”

Liu Xiaobo

Defender of human rights, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, in prison

A 54 year-old former professor of literature at Beijing Normal University, Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, was jailed for 21 months after the Tiananmen Square crackdown for his role in supporting students who had taken part in the peaceful protests.
In 1996, Liu was sentenced to three years of “reeducation-through-labor” as a result of further human rights activities. He was detained again on December 8, 2008, two days before the release (on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) of a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, which he helped to draft. On December 23, 2008, several eminent writers, lawyers, and human rights advocates released a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging Liu’s release.

Liu was formally arrested on June 23, 2009, on suspicion of “alleged agitation activities aimed at subversion of the government and overthrowing of the socialist system.” The US House of Representatives (in October 2009) and the European Union (in December) called for Liu’s release. On December 9, 2009, one year after being detained, Liu was formally indicted on charges of “incitement of subversion of state power,” and on December 25–after a trial failing to meet the minimum standards of due process–Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

On October 8, 2010, the Nobel Committee awarded Liu the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Human Rights Watch has also named Liu as a recipient of its 2010 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism.

For further information, please see:
HRW press release: “China: Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Spotlights Rights Deficit ” (10/8/2010)
HRW press release: “China: Scholars, Writers Press for Liu Xiaobo’s Release” (3/10/2010)
HRW press release: “China: Liu Xiaobo’s Trial a Travesty of Justice” (12/21/2009)
Op-ed by Phelim Kine in FEER, “Free Liu Xiaobo” (7/13/2009)
Liu Xiaobo’s chapter in Minky Worden, ed., China’s Great Leap (Seven Stories Press, 2008)

From: Human Rights Watch

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