Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chinese Dissident Faces 15 years of Prison

Liu Xiaobo, a university professor and prominent Chinese dissident, will find out in 30 days if he will face charges for "inciting subversion" and if he is likely to face the maximum 15 years in jail that comes with the charge.

Liu Xiaobo was arrested on December 8th 2008 because of his online petition called Charter 08 which was based on Charter 77 (written by a former Czech president). Charter 08 was signed by over 10,000 people, including over 300 journalists, writers and intellectuals that were all subsequently arrested and/or questioned by the communist authorities.

Mr. Liu is no stranger to Chinese jails seeing as he was jailed following his participation in the Tienanmen Square protests of 1989. Later he also spent 3 years in a re-education and labor camp.

Charter 08 might seems very inoffensive to those of us living in democratic countries, but in a place like China where the government has the very last word on everything, it is a very provocative essay that challenges the very foundation of authoritarian rule... Here are a few excerpts from Charter 08:

" Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom.(...)

Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. (...)

Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. (...)

Civic Education. In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. (...)

Freedom of Expression. We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. (...) "

Human Rights, Freedom of Expression and the Right to Self-Government are things that we often take for granted and seldom take time to appreciate unless we've seen first hand the repression that people face in countries where thoughts on government have to be whispered behind closed doors to very close friends.

At the end of the day, Mr. Liu arrest and the pending charge have probably brought more attention to Charter 08 than it ever would have gotten if the communist authorities would have left him alone. Mr Liu's voice from behind the wall is now being heard around the world and hopefully others inside China and other countries will follow his lead and "incite subversion".

Hopefully the international media will continue to cover the story of Mr. Liu and inspire others to join his cause.

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