China: Prominent dissident writer formally charged

English PEN is outraged by the announcement on 23 June 2009 that prominent dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, former President and Board member of Independent Chinese PEN Centre, is to stand trial on charges of ‘incitement to subversion of state power’. Liu Xiaobo was arrested on 8 December 2008 for his role in publishing Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and human rights.


According to English PEN’s information, police from the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) National Security Unit delivered Liu Xiaobo’s formal arrest notice dated June 23 to his wife, Liu Xia, on 24 June 2009. Liu Xiaobo has been held under ‘residential surveillance’, a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing since his arrest on 8 December 2008.  He has been held without access to his lawyer, and has been allowed only two family visits throughout his six-month detention, in January and in March. According to the official Xinhua news agency, he is accused of ‘spreading rumours and defaming the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years’. He is said to have confessed to the charges against him.  Liu Xiaobo is now expected to be transferred to a detention centre. The carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.  


Liu Xiaobo is among a large number of dissidents to have been detained or harassed since December 2008 after issuing an open letter calling on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and launching Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reforms and human rights published on 9 December 2008. These activities were part of campaigns to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December), and were initially signed by over 300 scholars, journalists, freelance writers and activists and now have over 8000 signatories from throughout China.


English PEN demands the immediate and unconditional release of dissident writer Liu Xiaobo and all those detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. PEN also seeks assurances that he is granted access to his lawyer and family as a matter of urgency.




Liu Xiaobo first received support from International PEN in 1989, when he was one of a group of writers and intellectuals given the label the “Black Hands of Beijing” by the government and arrested for their part in the Tiananmen Square protests. Prior to his current arrest, Liu has spent a total of five years in prison, including a three year sentence passed in 1996, and has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment and censorship. In January 2009 over 300 writers signed a petition calling for his release.


For more information follow these links:


“An Open Letter to Calling on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to Ratify the ICCPR”, 10 December, 2008 (in Chinese)

Charter 08, 10 December, 2008 (in Chinese) (NB The English version can be found here.)

For writings and an interview with Liu Xiaobo see American PEN’s website:


Please send appeals:


–  Protesting the charge of ‘incitement to subversion’ brought against prominent dissident writer Liu Xiaobo solely for his peaceful dissident activities;
–  Calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.
–  Seeking assurances that he is granted access to his lawyer and family as a matter of urgency.


Send appeals to:


His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China


Mr. Meng Jianzhu
Minister of the Public Security
East Chang’an Avenue 14
100741 Beijing
P.R. China


Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. We recommend that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments:


Her Excellency Mrs Fu Ying
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place


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