Police have finally presented a case against prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo, who has been jailed for a year without charge after helping produce a high-profile manifesto calling for sweeping democratic reforms in China, a lawyer said Wednesday.
The development moves Liu one step closer to standing trial and ends months of anxious uncertainty for his family and supporters. Police extended their investigation of Liu three times over the past year _ China's legal limit.
Lawyer Shang Baojun said the report presented by investigators alleges Liu incited to subvert state power with several essays he posted online and by helping produce Charter 08, an unusually direct appeal for more civil rights in China and an end to the Communist Party's political dominance.
"This marks the end of the investigation phase and the beginning of the prosecution phase," Shang said. Prosecutors now have about a month to examine the report and accompanying evidence and decide whether it is sufficient for a trial.
There have been numerous international appeals for Liu's release, including one last December signed by famous writers Wole Soyinka, Nadine Gordimer and Umberto Eco. The latest development is likely to trigger a new round of lobbying on his behalf.
The investigator's report was handed over to prosecutors Dec. 1, Shang said, but he was not given a copy until Wednesday morning.
Beijing routinely uses the charge of subversion to imprison dissidents. Shang said Liu could face up to 15 years in jail.
Liu, a former university professor who spent 20 months in jail after joining pro-democracy protests in 1989, was taken away by police on Dec. 8, 2008, a day before the charter was made public, and held at a secret location for six months.
He was formally arrested in June.
Credited with being the chief architect of Charter 08, Liu is the only person to have been arrested for organizing the appeal, which calls for a new constitution guaranteeing human rights, the open election of public officials, and freedom of religion and expression.
"We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens' movement," it says.
Human rights groups say others who signed the charter across the country have been questioned or put under surveillance by police and many also report being pressured by their employers. However, a news blackout and Internet censorship have left most Chinese unaware that Charter 08 exists.
Liu's wife, Liu Xia, says she has not seen or spoken to her husband since March when police arranged a short, supervised meeting for the couple in a Beijing hotel room.
Liu Xia said Wednesday she was "outraged" after reading the three-page investigator's report.
"This report alleges that his crime is very serious and I expect they will try to jail him for 10 years or more," she said.
Shang said he hopes to visit Liu in detention on Thursday to discuss his case.
On the Net:
Charter 08: http://www.2008xianzhang.info/english.htm