UN human rights chief deeply concerned by extremely harsh sentencing of Liu Xiaobo

25 December 2009
GENEVA - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday she was deeply concerned about the verdict and extremely harsh sentence in the trial of the prominent Chinese writer and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo, adding that this represents a serious setback for the protection and promotion of human rights in China.
Liu Xiaobo was convicted on Wednesday on "suspicion of incitement to subvert state power" as the result of his involvement in the drafting of Charter 08, a document signed by over 300 Chinese intellectuals and human rights defenders that called for political reforms and improvement of human rights in China. On Friday, he was reportedly sentenced to 11 years in prison.
"The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Liu Xiabo mark a further severe restriction on the scope of freedom of expression in China," Pillay said, adding that the court's decision was the latest indication of an escalating clamp-down on the activities of human rights defenders. "I have noted with a lot of interest the growing role of intellectuals, lawyers and journalists in the daily life of China in recent years," Pillay said. "This was a positive reflection of the rapid developments that China has undergone over the last decade, but cases such as that of Liu Xiaobo risk not just halting, but seriously reversing that momentum."
Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental freedoms laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and further developed in subsequent international human rights law instruments. Earlier this year, China adopted a National Human Rights Action Plan in which the Government committed to "open up different channels" to ensure its citizens enjoy "the right to be heard." Last February, when China was examined under the new UN Human Rights Council system known as the Universal Periodic Review, it committed to continue its efforts towards promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
"Today's verdict is a very unfortunate development that casts an ominous shadow over China's recent commitments to protect and promote human rights," the High Commissioner said.