Liu, a longtime advocate of political reform and the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was imprisoned on charges of inciting subversion through his writing. Liu was an author of Charter 08, a document promoting universal values, human rights, and democratic reform in China, and was among its 300 original signatories. He was detained in Beijing shortly before the charter was officially released, according to international news reports.
Liu was charged with subversion in June 2009 and was tried in the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court in December of that year. Diplomats from the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Sweden were denied access to the trial, the BBC reported. On December 25, 2009, the court convicted Liu of inciting subversion and sentenced him to 11 years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights.
The verdict cited several articles Liu had posted on overseas websites, including the BBC’s Chinese-language site and the U.S.-based websites Epoch Times and Observe China, all of which had criticized Communist Party rule. Six articles were named, including pieces headlined, “So the Chinese people only deserve ‘one-party participatory democracy?'” and “Changing the regime by changing society,” as evidence that Liu had incited subversion. Liu’s income was generated by his writing, his wife told the court.
The court verdict cited Liu’s authorship and distribution of Charter 08 as further evidence of subversion. The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court upheld the verdict in February 2010.
In October 2010, the Nobel Prize committee awarded Liu its 2010 peace prize “for his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest in her Beijing apartment since shortly after her husband’s detention. In March 2013, unidentified assailants beat two Hong Kong journalists when they filmed an activist’s attempt to visit her at home. In February 2014, Liu Xia spent a brief period in a hospital for heart problems, depression, and other medical conditions. Wu Yangwei, a dissident who writes under the name Ye Du, told CPJ in late 2016 that police have prohibited him and other dissident intellectuals from seeing her.
Hu Jia, a democracy activist and friend of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, told CPJ that in 2016 police have allowed Liu Xiaobo’s wife to visit him once a month and on his birthday.
In June 2013, Liu’s brother-in-law, Liu Hui, a manager of a property company, was convicted of fraud in what the journalist’s family said was reprisal for Liu Xiaobo’s journalistic work. The conviction stemmed from a real-estate dispute that Liu Hui’s lawyers said had already been settled. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, news reports said. A court rejected his appeal in August 2013. Liu Hui was released on medical parole later that year, Hu Jia told CPJ. The police threatened Liu Xia, saying that if she spoke with the foreign media they would put her brother back in jail, according to Hu Jia.
Liu Xiaobo was being held in Jinzhou Prison in northeastern China’s Liaoning province, according to news reports. Hu Jia, citing Liu Xia, told CPJ that the journalist has no health issues.