China’s leading dissident has appeared in court charged with “inciting subversion of state power” in a two hour trial described by human rights organisations as a “travesty of justice”.
If found guilty Liu Xiaobo faces up to 15 years in jail. The 53-year-old former literature professor is to be sentenced on Christmas Day.
Western diplomats were barred from attending the trial at Beijing’s Number One Intermediate People’s Court.
Liu spent three years in a re-education camp in the ’90s for his criticism of the ruling Communist Party but his co-authorship of the Charter 08 Petition calling for the democratic reform of the government is considered a much more serious offence by Beijing.
A US diplomat led the protests outside the court. Gregory May, a US embassy political officer said:
“We call on the government of China to release him immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views in favour of universally recognised fundamental freedoms including the right to petition one’s government.”
The accused’s wife Liu Xia says she expects her husband to be found guilty and his supporters have vowed to fight on.
Teng Biao, friend and lawyer to Liu Xiaobo said:
“What happened proved there’s control and interference. There have been many cases of journalists and writers charged with crimes only for expressing their views. No matter what happens in a society, the most important thing that should be guaranteed is a citizen’s freedom of expression.”
The Charter 08 Petition also calls for free elections and the abolition of the crime of “subverting state power” the charge being used to prosecute Liu Xiaobo.