World

Chinese dissident jailed 11 years

A Chinese court sentenced prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in jail Friday on subversion charges after he called for sweeping political reforms and an end to Communist Party dominance.

A Chinese court sentenced prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in jail Friday on subversion charges after he called for sweeping political reforms and an end to Communist Party dominance.

In this file photo, pro-democracy activists hold pictures of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in jail Friday on subversion charges. ((Kin Cheung, File/Associated Press))
The sentencing of Liu came despite international appeals for his release, which China sternly rejected as interference in its internal affairs.

Liu was the co-author of an unusually direct appeal for political liberalization in China called Charter 08. He was detained just before it was released last December. More than 300 people, including some of China's top intellectuals, signed it.

The verdict was issued at the No. 1 Intermediate People's Court in Beijing after a two-hour trial Wednesday where prosecutors accused Liu of "serious" crimes.

The vaguely worded charge of inciting to subvert state power is routinely used to jail dissidents. Liu could have been sentenced for up to 15 years in prison under the charge.

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

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.

The United States, European Union and Canada have urged Beijing to free Liu.

"We continue to call on the government of China to release him immediately," Gregory May, first secretary with the U.S. Embassy, told reporters outside the courthouse Friday.

May was one of a dozen diplomats stopped by authorities from attending the trial and sentencing.

"Canada deplores the sentencing of Liu Xiaobo, whom we believe is being punished for exercising his right to peaceful and non-violent freedom of expression," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said.

Liu, a former Beijing Normal University professor, spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, which ended when the government called in the military — killing hundreds, perhaps thousands.

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