China dissident Liu Xiaobo loses appeal, US urges release
China was criticized by the US ambassador and other foreign diplomats after a Beijing court rejected the appeal of top Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo against his 11-year jail sentence, the severest in recent memory.
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Still, the very length of Liu’s sentence could prompt a rethink by the Chinese authorities, he suggests.Skip to next paragraph
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“It is ridiculous and outrageous” and has heaped widespread public condemnation on Beijing’s head, says Mr. Kamm, who has been making behind-the-scenes efforts to release Chinese political prisoners for more than two decades.
“This is a tipping point,” he predicts. “I think they will have to work themselves out of this in a less hard-line way,” by treating future political detainees more cautiously.
Back to jail
Liu is all too familiar with Chinese jails; he was first locked up in 1989 for his role during the Tiananmen Square protests, having returned home to join them after only two months on a visiting scholarship at Columbia University in New York.
He was imprisoned twice more for his writings before being arrested in December 2008, two days before Charter 08 was due to be released.
Throughout his tribulations Liu has kept his faith in the future. “I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop,” he wrote in a personal statement he was prevented from reading at his trial last December.
“I look forward to the day when my country will be a land where opinions can be freely expressed … without any fear,” he wrote. “I hope that I shall be the last victim of China’s unending imprisonment of writers and that no one else will be made a criminal for what they say.”
An unrelenting trend?
The last week has offered little evidence that such a day will dawn soon. One human rights activist in Sichuan was sentenced to five years in jail Tuesday for having publicly blamed the earthquake deaths of thousands of children on shoddily built schools; another who had helped bereaved parents planning to sue the authorities had seen his appeal against a three-year prison term turned down a day earlier.
On Wednesday a young factory worker who said he had joined a banned political party because he did not like the Communist party’s abuse of power was found guilty of subversion by a court in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen and sentenced to 18 months in jail.
“Liu Xiaobo’s sentence is evidence of a very tough line, but will that tough line endure?” wonders Kamm. “Are we going to return to a discourse on human rights with China, or is China going to go its own way?
“At some point,” he says hopefully, “the pendulum will swing back.”
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