China rejects call to free dissident

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 4:08 AM

China on Tuesday rejected U.S. calls to release a high-profile dissident who has been indicted on subversion charges after calling for political reform in China.

The United States and the European Union this week both urged Beijing to free Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic and former university professor who spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.

He was detained again one year ago just before the release of an appeal he co-authored that calls for sweeping political reforms, known as Charter 08.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Monday that the United States is worried that Liu and other Chinese citizens may have been detained or harassed because they signed a charter that demanded democratic change and respect for human rights in China.

But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected those charges at a regular news conference Tuesday.

"Those accusations are unacceptable to China. ... Only those who break the law will be punished by the law," Jiang said.

Kelly says the United States has raised Liu's case repeatedly with Chinese officials since Liu was taken into custody a year ago.

The 27-nation European Union also issued a statement calling on China "to unconditionally release Liu Xiaobo and to end the harassment and detention of other signatories of Charter 08."

Liu's lawyer, Shang Baojun, said last week that he expects his client to go on trial within four to six weeks, and that prosecutors had informed him that Liu will be tried on the charge of inciting subversion of state power. The vaguely worded charge is routinely used in China to jail dissidents and carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

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Shang said the indictment cites as evidence Charter 08 and six articles on political reform that Liu published on overseas Web sites since 2005.

The charter demands a new constitution guaranteeing human rights, the open election of public officials, and freedom of religion and expression. It also calls for the abolition of the criminal code that allows people to be imprisoned for inciting subversion _ the crime Liu is charged with.

Some 10,000 people have signed the charter since it was made public a year ago, though a news blackout and Internet censorship have left most Chinese unaware that it exists.