Christmas day of 2009 will be remembered in Chinese history as the day China’s ruling party openly and resolutely said “NO” to public demands for democratic reforms. This was expressed in the form of a harsh jail sentence of 11 years, delivered today to the patriot Liu Xiaobo on subversion charges. Liu Xiaobo was arrested in 2008 for co-authoring Charter 08, an open appeal for political and legal reforms to protect civil rights of PRC citizens. Liu’s verdict indicates that the PRC’s ruling party considers reform initiatives proposed in Charter 08 as a direct challenge to its precarious claim to authority.
The significance of today’s jail sentence has been put very succinctly by a Beijing based independent commentator Wang Guangze. According to Wang, the unusually harsh sentence delivered today is significant because:
- It demonstrates Hu Jintao’s determination to secure power for CCP’s fifth generation successors;
- It represents a complete breakdown of any chances of political reconciliation between the CCP, under the leadership of Hu Jintao, and those who advocate liberal reforms both inside and outside of the Communist Party;
- It hastens the transformation of liberal reformers into revolutionary forces.
Contrary to Hu’s wishes, his reluctance to share power will be a catalyst for many more intense struggles for civil rights in China. Such a surge in public demands for liberal democracy in China will pose severe challenges to the CCP’s grip on power.
Why should we in Australia, the USA or in Europe care about Liu Xiaobo and his jail sentence? Wang Dan, a Chinese dissident and student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests, now in exile in Taiwan, wrote a reply to a similar query about this incident. Wang Dan said, ver batim:
The following is my translation:
The verdict has just been announced. Liu Xiaobo was given a harsh jail sentence of 11 years. As another Chinese national who pursues freedom and liberty, I hereby express my strongest protest to the Chinese Communist Party against this verdict. I consider this as another atrocity this Party has inflicted upon Chinese people, and Chinese people will never forget it. I am a good friend of Liu Xiaobo, and so I am deeply saddened by the verdict. With tears in my eyes I give my best wishes to him; I can only hope he will take the best care of himself in the face of suffering. The CCP’s trial of Liu Xiaobo once again gives substance to a famous proverb that says: ‘Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.’ I am therefore urging the international community to carefully examine current conditions in China today: Under the disguise of a rising economy is a regime marching steadily and surely towards Fascism. It is imperative for the future of mankind that the world takes notice of this trend. I am also calling upon those who are dedicated to promoting democracy in China not to forget Liu Xiaobo. Let us make the release of Liu Xiaobo from imprisonment our renewed goal of a democratic movement for China.
China Times has also published an interview with Wang Dan about Liu Xiaobo’s jail sentence.