Chinese dissident Liu to be tried on subversion charges

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BEIJING -- The Chinese government has set Wednesday as the trial date for Liu Xiaobo, a dissident who has been in detention for more than a year for his role in writing Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political reform, human rights and an end to one-party rule.

Chinese court officials telephoned Liu's attorneys on Sunday and on Monday delivered formal notice of the date of the trial, in which the government will accuse Liu of "inciting subversion of state power," a charge punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

"What he did and wrote doesn't exceed the scope of free speech," said Shang Baojun, one of Liu's attorneys. Another of Liu's attorneys, Mo Shaoping, said last week that Liu does not plan to dispute the facts of the case except for one: The government said he had collected 300 signatures for Charter 08, but Liu told Mo he had "only collected" 60 to 70 signatures.

Mo will not be allowed to defend Liu in court on Wednesday because he also signed the Charter 08 document.

Mo said that Liu was sharing a room with five people in the Beijing detention center, but that Liu's health was good. "He has prepared to stay in jail," Mo said.

People brought to trial are rarely acquitted, especially in political cases.

Liu is no stranger to detention and prison in China. The scholar, who left a position at Columbia University to join student-led protests in Beijing in 1989, served two years in prison after the government and military cracked down on the demonstrations. In the 1990s, he also served three years of "reeducation through labor" for questioning China's single-party system under the Chinese Communist Party and for calling for dialogue between the government and the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled leader.

In 2004, Liu's phone lines and Internet connection were cut after he published an essay criticizing the use of "subversion" charges used to silence journalists and activists.

Liu was detained again on Dec. 8, last year just before the formal release of Charter 08, which originally had about 300 signatories. Liu was formally arrested on June 23.

His wife has been allowed to visit him only twice, and might not see him Wednesday. Liu's attorneyss asked for permission for her to attend the trial as a spectator, but the court said that would be inappropriate because the government had listed her as a potential witness. It remains unclear whether the government has any intention of calling her.

Staff researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this article.

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