Tags: china | dissident | jail | communism

China's Top Dissident Faces Long Jail Time

Thursday, 24 December 2009 11:38 AM

BEIJING - China's leading dissident, Liu Xiaobo, expects to receive a long prison sentence Friday on charges that he had "incited subversion to state power" through his writings and role in Charter 08, a petition advocating greater freedom and democracy.

The case sent a signal that the Chinese Communist Party would continue to stifle domestic political critics, especially those who seek to organize their fellow Chinese. And it provided evidence that political modernization might not go hand in hand with China's economic modernization, contrary to past predictions by Chinese dissidents, U.S. business executives, political theorists and proselytizers of the Internet age.

"You can think democracy, you can talk democracy, but you can't do democracy," said Li Fan, director of the World and China Institute in Beijing.

"It certainly seems to reflect a high level of sensitivity and very low level of tolerance," said Rebecca MacKinnon, an Open Society Fellow and co-founder of GlobalVoicesOnline.org. "The chances of political reform taking place today seems lower than they did in the late '90s."

A decade ago, she said, "there was a great deal of optimism" about village elections, plans for separating party and state functions, and talk of democratic party reforms. Many analysts said a more open society would yield a more open political system.

But reform initiatives have stalled, and there was little evidence of openness in the handling of Liu's case this week.

The sentencing comes two days after Liu's trial, which lasted less than three hours at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court. The judge rejected evidence the defense sought to introduce and limited Liu's attorneys' speaking time to 14 minutes, according to one of Liu's brothers.

He said that about 18 mostly young people were allowed to listen to the case while Liu's wife, Liu Xia, could not. She planned to attend the Friday sentencing, having seen her husband only twice since he was detained more than a year ago.

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Thursday, 24 December 2009 11:38 AM
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