Liu was arrested and charged with “organizing and leading a counterrevolutionary group and spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda.” He was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being tried secretly in July 1994.
Liu had belonged to labor and pro-democracy groups, including the Liberal Democratic Party of China, the Free Labor Union of China, and the Chinese Progressive Alliance, and had written articles supporting the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. During the Democracy Wall movement in 1979, Liu co-edited the pro-democracy journal Tansuo (Explorations) with dissident Wei Jingsheng.
Court documents stated that Liu was involved in organizing and leading antigovernment and pro-democracy activities. Prosecutors also accused him and other dissidents who were tried on similar charges of writing and printing political leaflets that were distributed in June 1992, during the third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Liu has had his sentence reduced three times for good behavior by a total of one year and eight months. In May 2002, on the 10th anniversary of her husband’s arrest, Liu’s wife, Jin Yanming, wrote an account of his imprisonment, trial, and security officials’ subsequent harassment of her family. The document was distributed online.