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Trial begins against leading Chinese dissident


Beijing : A trial against prominent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo began Wednesday in Beijing under unusually tight security.

A contingent of police and security personnel blocked the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court, and several of Liu’s supporters who planned to express their sympathies outside the court building were arrested, witnesses said.

Liu faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of a charge of “inciting subversion of state power” at a trial that human rights groups are calling politically motivated and aimed at placing a leading critic of the Chinese government behind bars and silencing him.

The international community has called for Liu’s release, but China has rejected the appeals as interference in its internal affairs.

Liu, 54, was detained in December 2008, shortly before the release of Charter ’08 for democratic reform in China, which he co-organised.

In the charter, 303 leading dissidents, activists and writers 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.

Since its release, more than 10,000 people have signed it online.

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, called the charges against her husband “fabricated” and said he was only exercising his right to free speech, which is protected in the Chinese constitution.

Liu Xia was barred from watching the trial because the prosecution has called her as a witness.

Diplomats from the US, Germany, France and Canada also tried in vain to attend the proceedings. The court told them all observer passes had already been given out.

“We call on the government of China to release him (Liu Xiaobo) immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views in favour of universally recognised fundamental freedoms, including the right to petition one’s government,” Grey May, the first secretary at the US embassy, told reporters after failing to attend the trial.

“We urge that any judicial proceedings be conducted in a fair and transparent manner in accordance to the rights of all Chinese citizens.”

Ahead of the trial, other human rights activists and dissidents were warned not to express their sympathy with Liu Xiaobo or participate in activities related to his trial.