Hotline Asia Urgent Appeals -- UA090626(5)

Release Dr. Liu Xiaobo and Stop Suppressing Freedom of Expression
26 June 2009

Action Requested || Sample Letter || Background
Please respond before 24 July 2009



The prominent dissident, Dr. Liu Xiaobo, 53, one of the signatories of Charter 08, was formally arrested by the Chinese authority on 23 June for inciting subversion and is at high risk of harsh sentence.

Prior to the release of Charter 08, the first human rights document drafted by the civil society, on the International Human Rights Day 2008, Dr. Liu Xiaobo was arrested by police officers in Beijing on 8 December. Since then, he has been put under ‘residential surveillance’ away from his home, which is a breach of law in relation to house arrest, and his wife Ms Liu Xia was only allowed to visit him twice in his 6-month detention.

Xinhua News Agency, the state-run media, quoted the police statement that “Liu has been engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading rumours and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years.” Xinhua also reported that Dr. Liu has confessed to the charge. His defense lawyer, Mr. Mo Shaoping, stated that Dr. Liu could be sentenced up to 15 years’ imprisonment if convicted.

Everyone should enjoy freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions. Such right is not only enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China is a signatory, but also in the Constitution of China. Arresting Dr. Liu for his involvement in Charter 08 is a clear violation of freedom of expression and is arbitrary.

Dr. Liu is in grave danger of being convicted and his conviction will create chilling effect in the Chinese society which will deter any criticisms towards the government and is destructive to human rights protection and social reform. ACPP calls for international support for the dissident who bravely speaks up for human rights and social change, by voicing out our concern over arbitrary detention imposed on him. More important, the Chinese government has been stepping up persecutions to a number of dissidents and imposing tougher restrictions on freedom of expression and information through internet censorship. Your response to this appeal can make the Chinese government know that the international community is closely watching the case and human rights violations in the country.


Action Requested

Please write polite letters to urge the Chinese government to:
• release Dr. Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally; and
• stop persecution of other signatories of Charter 08.

Send letters to:    
President Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu, Beijing

Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of the Public Security
14 Dongchang’anjie, Dongchenqu
Beijing 100741

Send copies to:    
Diplomatic representatives of People's Republic of China in your country


Sample Letter

We are writing with grave concern over the arrest of Dr. Liu Xiaobo, one of the signatories of Charter 08.

It is reported that Dr. Liu, has been detained for 6 months before being formally arrested on 23 June. We are aware that Dr. Liu was arrested on “subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system” through spreading rumours and defaming the Chinese government. As the arrest came prior to the release of Charter 08, we believe his arrest is directly related to the human rights document initiated by civil society. In addition, the harassment and interrogation of over a hundred of signatories of the Charter, revealed a lack of tolerance in civil society’s plea for human rights improvement.

Articles 35 and 41 of the Constitution of People’s Republic of China guarantee citizens’ right to freedom of expression and right to criticize and make suggestions to the government. The arrest of Dr. Liu is categorically an infringement of the Constitution. Moreover, we are delighted to see your government launch the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) in April which states that government will work to improve democracy and the rule of law. The Action Plan reaffirms the rights to criticize, give advice to, complain of, and accuse state organs and civil servants. The arrest of Dr. Liu for calling political, legal and social reform, on the contrary, is suppression on freedom of expression and is contradictory to the promises in the Action Plan.

Recently, the Chinese government has been emphasizing the importance of harmonious society. This can only be realized by addressing the discontent and criticism from the public. Silencing dissidents will only be a counter-productive way to respond to the deep-rooted social conflict in your country.

The world is impressed by the economic stride in China, but only genuine social and political change can gain respect from international communities. In order to show the commitment of the government to improve human rights in China, we sincerely urge you to:
• release Dr. Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally; and
• stop persecution of other signatories of Charter 08.


It is believed that the arrest of Dr. Liu Xiaobo is a result of his involvement in Charter 08. Many of the recommendations in the Charter are in line with the Constitution. Therefore, the arrest of Dr. Liu is politically-motivated and is unjust.

Charter 08
Charter 08 is a blueprint of constitutional, political, legal and social reform drafted by the civil society which was planned to be released on the International Human Rights Day 2008. An initial group of 303 Chinese citizens endorsed the Charter, and the number of signatories keeps growing. Until June 2009, around 8,600 have endorsed the Charter.

Charter 08 calls on the reaffirmation of freedom, human rights, equality, republicanism, democracy and constitutionalism. These are universal values and rights stipulated in Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. To elaborate these concepts, 19 specific standpoints and proposal on political system, civil rights and social development are raised in the document, such as, amending the Constitution as a legal foundation for democracy and making it the supreme law for human rights protection; separation of legislative, judicial, and administrative power; democratizing law making process; establishing the Human Rights Commission, repealing the urban-rural household registration system to equalize rights of citizens, and ensuring freedom of association, expression and religion.

Charter 08 remains a politically-sensitive document as perceived by the Chinese government. Apart from the arrest of Dr. Liu Xiaobo, other signatories also encountered harassment for indicating support to Charter 08. For example, during the visit of US Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton to China in February 2009, several signatories of Charter 08 were put under house arrest or surveillance. As of April 2009, 143 of them have been interrogated by the authorities.

Full text of Charter 08(English):

Profile of Dr. Liu Xiaobo
Dr. Liu Xiaobo is a prominent dissident writer. His involvement in human rights in China dated back to the Pro-democracy Movement in 1989. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre, Dr. Liu was imprisoned for half a year. In 1996, he was sentenced to three years in a forced-labour camp for calling for the impeachment of Jiang Zemin, president at that time. These persecutions have not stopped him from expressing his political opinions. The latest incident of persecution was the arrest due to his involvement in Charter 08.

Political Prosecution against Human Rights Defenders
Freedom of expression is guaranteed under article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. Article 41 further specifies the right to “criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary”. In reality, however, like Dr. Liu Xiaobo, dissidents are always punished for exercising their constitutional rights.

In China, “inciting subversion of state power”, “leaking state secret”, and other charges are always invoked to jail human rights defenders with the aim of clamping down political opinions which may threaten to the Communist regime. The charges invoked are always politically-motivated. Moreover, in the process, the defendants are always deprived of the right to legal assistance and fair trial.

Several activists were put under surveillance, or forced to leave Beijing before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. Recently, detaining human rights lawyers, like Gao Zhisheng and Ji Sizun, for criticizing the government, also indicates that human rights defenders remain vulnerable to political persecution in China.

To support the justice call for political reform and respect for human rights, and protest against the arbitrary detention of Dr. Liu Xiaobo, UA081224(9) was issued in December 2008. UA080125(1) and UA090330(1) have also been issued to support human rights defenders who strive for justice in China.

Charter 08
Human Rights in China


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