Chinese democracy activist sentenced for online writing

New York, March 25, 2011–The harsh sentencing of a pro-democracy activist and journalist is yet another example of China’s growing intolerance of independent expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A court in western Sichuan province sentenced Liu Xianbin to 10 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power through articles published on overseas websites between April 2009 and February 2010, according to The Associated Press. One was titled “Constitutional Democracy for China: Escaping Eastern Autocracy,” the BBC reported. Liu also signed the pro-democracy Charter 08 petition drafted by Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, who is serving an 11-year term on the same charge. Both sentences are unusually heavy. The charge normally carries a penalty of up to five years in prison except in serious cases.

Police detained Liu in June 2010, international news reports said. Chinese police have since rounded up several more bloggers and activists in unusual numbers following online calls for anti-government demonstrations modeled on recent Jasmine revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, according to CPJ research.

“Liu Xianbin has every right to express his opinions on overseas websites without facing jail time,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “The harsh 10-year sentence is a troubling indicator of what lies ahead for anyone sharing information or opinion which challenges the Chinese Communist Party.”

Liu has already served two and a half years in prison in China for involvement in 1989 anti-government protests in Tiananmen Square, and ten years of a 13-year prison sentence he was given in 1999 after founding a branch of the China Democracy Party, according to The New York Times.

China has been at or near the top of CPJ’s list of countries that imprison the most journalists for over a decade, challenged only by Iran.