12/26/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Liu Xiaobo’s 11-year sentence a “travesty of justice”

The activist’s wife, Liu Xia, says her husband will appeal. The United Nations and the European Union criticise the court’s decision. According to some dissidents, Hu Jintao feels strong enough to disregard foreign pressures but for them the sentence will make dissent stronger
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For Human Rights Watch, the 11-year sentence imposed yesterday on Chinese intellectual and activist Liu Xiaobo is “a travesty of justice.” Liu, who will be 54 on 28 December Feast Day of the Holy innocent, was one of the authors of Charter 08, a manifesto that calls on the People’s Republic of China to respect the people’s need for democracy, guarantee the separation of power among the branches of government and end Communist Party’s monopoly of power. In its verdict, the court said that Liu “had the goal of subverting our country's people's democratic dictatorship and socialist system.” In China, court decisions can never independently of Party interests.

Liu, who was not allowed to respond in court to the sentence, was able to speak with his wife, Liu Xia, for ten minutes. He told her that he would appeal, even if chances of success were slim.  

Reactions to the sentence were swift. UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said that Liu’s sentence was “extremely harsh” and undermined freedom of expression. Sweden, as the current holder of the EU presidency, said it was "deeply concerned by the disproportionate sentence”. The US Embassy in Beijing called for Liu’s immediate release.

By contrast, Chinese authorities called the criticism “a gross interference of China's internal affairs”.

For a number of Chinese dissidents, President “Hu Jintao believes that with the West weakened and human rights taking a back seat, he can ignore pressure over attacks on freedom of expression”.

China “sees Liu Xiaobo as a representative figure, and [those in power] think they can scare the others into silence with such a harsh sentence”, said dissident Christian activist Yu Jie, “but I think his case will embolden, not scare, others.”

Indeed, on the eve of the sentence, some 300 prominent Chinese offered to be tried with him because they share his ideas. They include Bao Tong, a former top government official.

On the day of Liu’s trial, last Wednesday, tens of his friends and comrades, demonstrated waving banners and shouting slogans (pictured) against China’s unfair justice system.

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