The pen and the penalty
Liu Xianbin was jailed this week, for 10 years. Guess what the offence was? Something heinous, something violent, something depraved, I hear you cry. Close, but no cigar. He wrote an essay.
He actually wrote a number of articles which were critical of the Chinese government. He must have thought he would get away with it, I bet you’re thinking, well no, probably not. This will be his third jail sentence, and he has been out of jail for less than two years. Liu has previously served nine years for ‘subverting state power’ due to activism in the 1990s, and two and a half years after his participation in the student democracy movement of 1989.
As soon as he got out of jail last time, he made himself a public signatory to ‘Charter 08’, a proposal for legal and political reform that was co-authored by Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, for which he is languishing in jail.
This is a brave and tenacious man, who refuses to be deterred. This week, Amnesty accused the Chinese authorities of shooting the messenger, rather than heeding the message. But it is a message that is reaching a crescendo they can not comfortably ignore. Liu Xianbin’s sentence comes amidst revelations about the huge and ongoing clampdown on dissent more widely. The authorities are getting twitchy, and in a global context, it is easy to see why.
Over the last month, more than 100 activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogging networks, have been detained, subjected to monitoring and intimidation by the security forces, or have gone missing.
For as little as mentioning the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ on Twitter, people are being put in jail. Words are costly in China at the moment, but it is a cost some activists are prepared to risk paying. As long as that remains the case, what’s not right, will be writ.
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.