UN panel calls for release of jailed China dissident Liu News
UN panel calls for release of jailed China dissident Liu
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[JURIST] The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] has called for the immediate release of Chinese rights activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], according to UN documents [text, PDF] from May released Monday by Freedom Now [advocacy website]. Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison term [JURIST report] after being convicted on charges of subversion in a trial that lasted only two hours and was closed to foreign diplomats. The Working Group forwarded its written opinions to the Chinese government calling Liu’s detention “arbitrary” and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text]. The documents said that the Chinese government responded saying the conviction was in accordance with Chinese criminal codes and consistent with the rule of law. But the Working Group disagreed saying that Liu should be immediately released and paid reparation:

The total or partial non-observance of the relevant international standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights relating to the right to a fair trial can be of such gravity so as to confer on the deprivation of liberty, of whatever kind, an arbitrary character. The trial was organized in way which constitutes a breach of fairness. In spite of the difficult balancing issues that are involved in free speech cases, Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s defence was limited to 14 minutes. … Restrictions of the right to political free speech are strongly circumscribed. The Government has not shown in this case a justification for the interference with Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s political free speech. The requirement of proportionality which applies to such restrictions is not satisfied by the reasons provided by the Government.

Liu has been one of China’s most prominent dissidents. He spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China’s one-party rule and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country.

Last December, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway after it was announced he would be the recipient [JURIST reports] in October. The Chinese government denounced the decision calling it “contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Prize,” and censoring the announcement, blocking internet searches and international broadcasts about it and even turning off phones of people who text messaged the news. China’s human rights record has been widely criticized. In June, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] urged the Chinese government to release protesters arrested [JURIST report] for the peaceful Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989. The DOS also asked the Chinese government to provide an account of those missing, detained or killed during the suppression. The US encouraged the Chinese government to protect universal human rights of peaceful dissenters and to release all that are detained, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest in recent months. China has also been criticized for jailing human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Chinese government [JURIST report] in March to free him claiming his detention is in violation of international law.