Beijing court upholds Liu Xiaobo's initial sentence

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The Higher People's Court of Beijing Municipality on Thursday rejected Liu Xiaobo's appeal and upheld the first trial's verdict of agitation aimed at subverting the government.

Liu was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment on Dec. 25, 2009 by the First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing Municipality.

A statement from the higher court said the final verdict was made after the court reviewed his case files, questioned Liu himself, heard opinions from his defense lawyers and conducted a second trial.

Liu's family and some members of the public were present in the court when the judgement was announced.

"Liu's verdict is sound on legal basis and factual proof," said Prof. Gao Mingxuan, president of the International Association of Penal Law China Branch and honorary chairman of the Criminal Law Research Association of the China Law Society.

Although freedom of expression is an extremely important right of Chinese citizens, and is protected by China's Constitution and laws, Gao said citizens could not exercise the right without any restrictions whatsoever.

According to China's Constitution, Chinese citizens' exercise of their freedoms and rights should not infringe upon the interests of the state, of society, and of the collective or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

It is the duty of Chinese citizens to safeguard the security, honor and interests of the country, according to the Constitution.

Gao said China's Constitution was in line with the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stated that the exercise of freedom of expression might be subject to certain lawful restrictions necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others and the protection of national security or public order.

Most countries in the world, including Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Singapore, had criminal laws aimed to stop people from insulting and slandering others, instigating ethnic hatred and discrimination, and subverting the government, said Gao.

He said Liu had already published a number of articles which exceeded the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Liu had spread anti-government rumors and slanders, and had organized and persuaded other people to join activities aimed at overturning the current government, Gao said, adding that his conduct was dangerous to the country.

"The people's court's verdict is in accordance with China's Criminal Law and is in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as internationally-recognized restriction of norms regarding freedom of expression," he said.

Chen Weidong, deputy director of the Criminal Procedure Law Institution under the China Law Society, said some western criticism of the procedures used in Liu's case were biased. A public trial is a fundamental principle according to China's Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law, he added.

"Due to limited capacity in the court, or large numbers of applicants, it is not unusual that some people who want to observe the trial won't be able to," Chen said.

"It should be understood that some foreign reporters and diplomats were not able to attend the first-stance trial because there were too many applicants and too few permission cards."

"And Liu's wife should be prohibited from attending the trial, according to the law, because she was a witness in the case," Chen said.

"Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to doubt or deny the public trial in the first instance," Chen said.

Chen also said it was "arbitrary" to say Liu's litigation rights had not been fully protected because of the shortness of the trial.

"Liu and his two lawyers had a whole year to prepare a defence before the court trial," Chen added.

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