Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

Urgent Action-- Human Rights Day in China:  Liu Xiaobo Accused of Major Crime for Drafting Charter 08  

(Chinese HumanRights Defenders, December 9, 2009) – According to documents submittedby theBeijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) to the Beijing MunicipalProcuratorate atthe conclusion of the PSB’s investigation, detained activist andintellectualLiu Xiaobo (刘晓波)should be charged with “inciting subversion of state power” because he“draftedCharter 08 together with others,which is a major crime.” This is the first time Chinese authoritieshaveofficially labelled the drafting of this political manifesto a “majorcrime.” Todaymarks the one-year anniversary of the publication of Charter08, and a number of activists have been harassed by police andwarned against organizing activities to mark the occasion.

 “The choice ofthe phrase ‘major crime’ probably reflects the opinion of the topleaders, andsuggests they have reached a decision on how to respond to Charter08. Now that the act of drafting Charter 08 hasbeen decreed a ‘major crime,’ we are concerned thatmore people may face arrest for their roles as drafters and signatoriesof Charter 08,” said Chen Ming, an activistclosely following the case.

Liu’s case wastransferred to the procuratorate on December 8. The next step is for the procuratorate to review Liu’s case anddecidewhether or not to initiate a prosecution, a procedure that can last aslong assix and a half months. In addition to mentioning Charter 08,the police recommendation for prosecution also citedsix articles published by Liu in recent years. 

The crime of“inciting subversion of state power” is stipulated under Article 105(2)of theChinese Criminal Code. If convicted, Liu faces a maximum of fifteenyears offixed-term imprisonment. In recent years, activists convicted of“incitingsubversion” have usually been sentenced to less than five years ofimprisonment. However, the same article says that those “who commitmajorcrimes shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less thanfiveyears.”  

In recent days,police targeted a number of prominent activists and dissidents, seekingto keepthem and Charter 08 out of thespotlight as the one-year anniversary approached. For example:

  • A police car has been stationed outside of the home of Beijing activist Zhang Zuhua (张祖桦) and police have kept him under surveillance since December 1. Officers from the National Security Unit of the Beijing PSB have warned him not to give interviews, meet with others, or write articles about the anniversary, and threatened to imprison him if he does not comply. 

  • Wen Kejian (温克坚), a Hangzhou-based rights activist, was prevented from travelling to Beijing in the last week of November and questioned several times by police who told him that the days surrounding the anniversary were “sensitive” and he was not allowed to travel.

  • Xi’an human rights lawyer and Charter 08 signatory Zhang Jiankang (张鉴康) was summoned by National Security police on December 9 and interrogated for three hours about an event he helped organize on December 6 to commemorate the anniversary.

  • On the afternoon of December 7, officials from the National Security Unit under the Hangzhou PSB arrived at the home of dissident Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫) and announced he was being placed under residential surveillance.  Zhu is only allowed to leave his home if escorted by police.

  • Zhejiang human rights lawyer Zhuang Daohe (庄道鹤) was barred from leaving the mainland for Hong Kong by border guards at Shenzhen's Luohu border crossing on December 5. Officials did not give Zhuang a reason for the action, though it is suspected to be related to the anniversary.

  • Chengdu democracy activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) was taken away from his home by police on the afternoon of December 9.  His current whereabouts are unknown.

  • Members of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum, a loose circle of activists who meet often to discuss human rights and distribute educational materials, have been under heavy pressure from local authorities seeking to stop them from carrying out planned activities to mark both the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 and the release of Charter 08 on December 9.  Police stationed at a Guiyang Park prevented Forum members from holding a meeting on December 6, and activists Chen Xi (陈西), Liao Shuangyuan (廖双元) and Wu Yuqin (吴玉琴) have all been briefly detained and interrogated in recent weeks. 

Charter 08 is a manifesto calling for bold reforms promotingdemocracy and human rights in China.  It was published on December 9,2008, one day after Liu Xiaobo’s detention.  It initially had over 303signatoriesand now has more than 10,000, about 80% of whom live in mainland China. While Liu remains the only Chinese citizendetained for his involvement with Charter08, the government has interrogated, harassed, and threatened overonehundred Charter 08 signatories in thepast year, some on multiple occasions.  Computersand personal property confiscated by police from the homes of activistsZhangZuhua, Wang Debang (王德邦),and others have yet to be returned, and the bank accounts of someactivistsalso remain frozen.   

“The Chineseauthorities have made a mockery of International Human Rights Day byaccusingthe drafters of this manifesto defending human rights of committing a‘seriouscrime’ and taking one step further in criminally prosecuting LiuXiaobo. It iscritical that the international community speaks up now and expressesseriousconcerns for Mr. Liu and other Chinese citizens who are beingpersecuted for expressingtheir aspirations for rights and democracy,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’sInternational Director.  


CHRD demands theimmediate release of Liu Xiaobo.  

The BeijingMunicipal Public Security Bureau must drop its proposal to prosecuteLiu Xiaobofor exercising his freedom of expression by participating in thedrafting of Charter 08 and writing politicalcommentary articles. 

Chineseauthorities must end the on-going harassment and intimidation of otherorganizers and signatories of Charter 08,returning illegally-confiscated personal belongings, and hold thoseresponsiblefor the harassment legally accountable.  

Liu Xiaobo hasbeen detained for over one year, without a trial, solely for thepeacefulactivities of expressing his opinions and organizing fellow citizens tovoicetheir common concerns and ideas regarding the promotion of human rightsanddemocracy. Liu’s detention violates his rights to freedom of expressionandassociation enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution andalsoguaranteed in Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on CivilandPolitical Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (though not ratified).Hisdetention is arbitrary, based on charges that he violated a vague lawcommonlyused to prosecute free speech as act of “inciting subversion againstStatePower,” Article 105 of the Chinese Criminal Code.  

For moreinformation, please see:

“As Charter 08 Anniversary Nears, Liu Xiaobo Languishes Behind Bars without Trial,”December 3, 2009,

“Liu XiaoboFormally Arrested for ‘Inciting Subversion of State Power,’” June 24,2009, 

“ChineseGovernment Responds with a Crackdown on Activists for Commemorating60thAnniversary of UDHR,” December 10, 2008,

“’IncitingSubversion of State Power’: A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech inChina,”January 8, 2008, 

Media Contacts:

Renee Xia,International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 3015479286

JiangYingying,Researcher (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
View latest posts