WHO IS LIU XIAOBO AND IS HE JAILED FOR WORDS?
Tang Guoqiang
2010/12/02

The Norwegian Nobel Committee handpicked Liu Xiaobo and awarded him the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. This has triggered people's interests in who Liu Xiaobo is and what contributions he has made to the world peace?

Opposing China's Constitution by the “Charter 08”

Liu Xiaobo was born in 1955 and was a worker in his youth. He got his master's degree in 1984 and began working as a teacher in Beijing Normal University. He got his doctorate degree in 1988.

Liu Xiaobo attracted attention and became famous when he began slandering his own country and his own nation, especially attacking the country's political system. Back in 1988, he claimed that China needed to be a colony for 300 years to have a “real change”. He abused the Chinese people as “totally weak both physically and psychologically” just due to the “race”. He felt very much ashamed of being a Chinese. He even said that China should be split into 18 pieces, openly supporting “Taiwan independence” and “Tibet independence”. At the same time, he adored and praised loudly the Western political, economic and cultural systems, and claimed that he did not care to be called a traitor of his own motherland.

Liu Xiaobo took part in the political turmoil of 1989 and was detained by police for his agitation activities. He pleaded guilty with the police and wrote a confession paper in which he expressed his regret and wished to be “useful for the nation and people”. Due to his repentant attitude, the Government spared him criminal punishment. However, Liu returned to his old ways in 1991 and was detained twice in 1995 and 1999 for disturbing public order.

Since the mid 1990s, Liu Xiaobo begun working for the Democratic China, a firm financed by the National Endowment for Democracy in the U.S., and was paid regularly. Liu's annual salary, according to Aboluowang.com, an overseas news website, was over US$23,004. Even when he is in prison, his payment and other financial support in the form of “human rights prize” and “democracy contributor prize” have never stopped. “I’m not like you, I don’t lack money. Foreigners pay me every year even when I’m in prison,” said Liu to his fellow prisoners.

Liu Xiaobo has spared no effort in working for Western anti-China forces since 2005, and drew up the so-called Charter 08 in 2008. The charter denies the socialist system, the leadership of the Communist Party and the current State power stipulated in the Chinese Constitution. The charter attempts to push forward the Western political system in China under the pretense of constitutional amendment and preaches the thought of "violent revolution" and "regime change". The charter entices people to join it, with the intent to alter the political system and overturn the Government. To carry out such a charter will not only make China a vassal of the West, but also destroy the progress of Chinese society and the welfare of Chinese people. Liu’s actions have severe social peril. In December 2008, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the crime of agitation aimed at subverting the Government.

“Jailed for words”: a misunderstanding to the conviction of Liu Xiaobo

Some people in the West said that Liu’s words and actions are within the scope of the freedom of expression so that Liu should not be convicted. Do these arguments make sense?

Liu's activities have crossed the line of freedom of expression and constituted criminal actions. From October 2005 to August 2007, by publishing articles such as “the totalitarian patriotism of the CPC”, “to change the political system by changing the society”, “negative effects to the world democratization by the totalitarian rise”, he slanders and vilifies the country's political system and State power enshrined in the Constitution and harbors motive and purpose to overthrow the Government. By writing “Charter 08” on September 12, 2008, which advocates “abolishing the one-Party monopolistic rule”, “establishing a Federal Republic of China”, and pins hope on the expansion of people’s “new force” for a “free China”, he deliberately abets people to subvert the State power. By using internet to soliciting signatures of over 300 people and circulating “Charter 08” together with signatures to overseas websites for publication, he incites people to engage in rebellion against the authority of the People's Republic of China. What Liu Xiaobo did are by no means “critical remarks in general”, but are actions which violate China’s laws and have the realistic harm to the society. What Liu did has nothing to do with “promotion of human rights”. That's why Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to imprisonment in accordance with the Criminal Law of China.

It is universally recognized that the exercise of the freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities for respecting the rights and reputations of others and for the protection of national security or public order. Most countries, China and Western countries included, apply criminal disposition to individuals for seditious words or actions that threaten national security and social order. The US Code 2383 provides that “whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both”. The Treason Act of the United Kingdom and laws of Italy, Canada, Australia and Singapore also include articles on subversion.

In their judicial practice on identified criminal behavior on the words, many countries resort to the “clear and present danger test” as their conviction. Schenck’s case in the United States is one of them. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concluded that the character of every act depended on the circumstances. “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the Congress has a right to prevent.”

We can derive from this case and many other cases: (1) freedom of expression is a right which can be defined according to the harmfulness of consequence and therefore can be limited; (2) the criteria whether the freedom of expression should be limited is determined by the nature and extent that the harm will cause to the present public order under specific circumstance. Therefore, any concrete seditious words which are liable to social turmoil should be limited by the State authorities. To judge Liu Xiaobo's case even by the above-mentioned American criteria, the verdict on him by the Chinese judicial authorities is beyond question.

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