Imprisonment of Chinese dissident deeply concerns UN human rights chief

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

25 December 2009 – The top United Nations human rights official voiced deep concern today over the verdict and severe sentencing of a prominent Chinese writer, warning that this represents a serious setback for human rights in China.

Liu Xiaobo, who is also a well-known human rights activist, was convicted on “suspicion of incitement to subvert State power” and reportedly condemned to an 11-year jail term.

“The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Liu Xiabo mark a further severe restriction on the scope of freedom of expression in China,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday.

Ms. Pillay said that the court's decision was the latest indication of an escalating clampdown 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,” Ms. Pillay said in a news release.

“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,” she added.

Liu Xiaobo was convicted 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.

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 pledged to continue 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,” said Ms. Pillay.


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