Rights groups, activists slam China’s charging of dissident

June 25th, 2009 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 25 (DPA) Rights groups and activists Thursday condemned China’s decision to charge leading dissident Liu Xiaobo with subversion, with two prominent supporters saying the government had “lost all reason”.
Ding Zilin and her husband Jiang Peikun said in a joint open letter that the government had “acted in a weak, cowardly and uncertain manner”, and its charging of Liu was “just a pretext to intimidate public opinion”.

“Who would have guessed that today, the government would go so far as to lose all reason and brazenly order his formal arrest,” Ding and Jiang said in the letter, which was distributed by US-based Human Rights in China.

Retired professors Ding and Jiang helped found the Tiananmen Mothers group after their 17-year-old son was killed in the military crackdown that ended student-led anti-government protests in June 1989. They are also signatories of the Charter ‘08 for democratic reform, of which Liu was one of the organisers.

Liu, 53, was arrested in early December, just before the release of the charter, in which 303 signatories set out their ideals for transforming China into a liberal democracy and lamented a lack of “freedom, equality and human rights” under the ruling Communist Party.

Ding and Jiang said Liu’s arrest was “an event that affects the direction of China’s future”.

“We are calling on democratic forces at home and abroad to immediately take action and work to rescue Liu Xiaobo,” they said.

Reacting to the charging of Liu, Human Rights in China said it “strongly condemns the Chinese government’s conduct in punishing free speech and trampling on human rights”.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Liu’s being charged “signals a hardening of the political climate in China”.

“Liu Xiaobo’s arrest indicates that the room for peaceful political dissent is shrinking in China,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement.

Zeng Jinyan, another prominent dissident, also suggested on her blog Wednesday that the charges against Liu reflected the government’s intolerance of any organised opposition.

“I originally thought that he would be kept under house arrest indefinitely,” said Zeng, who also put her name to Charter ‘08 despite also being held under virtual house arrest at her Beijing home.

“This case again shows that we can’t have any illusions about the authorities,” Zeng wrote.

The Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) Wednesday said the government had barred civil rights attorney Mo Shaoping from continuing to represent Liu because Mo had also signed Charter ‘08.

“I will fight the decision to bar me from representing Liu in accordance with the law,” CHRD quoted Mo as saying.

Chinese authorities have detained Liu at a secret location since arresting him in Beijing. He has reportedly been held incommunicado except for two meetings with his wife, Liu Xia.

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