HONG KONG—Authorities in the Chinese capital have moved a step closer to trying a top dissident, submitting his subversion case to the state prosecutor exactly one year after his arrest for helping to draft a document calling for political reform.
A lawyer acting for Liu Xiaobo, who was detained on the eve of World Human Rights Day last year as he and fellow activists were preparing to release Charter 08, said he had received a call from an official at the Beijing Procuratorate's office Tuesday.
"The investigating agencies have submitted an opinion to the procuratorate, recommending that it charge Liu Xiaobo formally," Liu's lawyer Shang Baojun said.
"The final decision rests with the procuratorate on whether or not to do this. They usually make that decision within a month."
Liu was formally arrested June 23 for "engaging in agitation activities, such as the spreading of rumors and defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialist system," according to official media reports at the time.
If convicted of subversion, Liu could face a jail term of up to 15 years.
'No one paying much attention'
Visiting professor Wang Youjin at the China University of Politics and Law said that if Liu were jailed for subversion, he would be cut off from foreign journalists and from gaining further publicity for his views.
"There is also another possibility," Wang said. "They have already detained him for one year, so they may inform him, if there is no new evidence, that there isn't enough evidence against him to proceed to trial."
He said the law enforcement agencies investigating Liu's case had already extended the permit to hold Liu three times, suggesting that they were still looking for evidence against him.
But fellow Charter 08 signatory Zhang Zuhua said there was still cause for concern.
"If they weren't planning to try him, then they wouldn't bother to extend his detention so as to continue their investigation," he said.
"No one overseas is paying much attention to Charter 08 any more, so they could just send him home to be under house arrest, just like [me]," Zhang said.
"The fact that they haven't done this isn't a good sign."
Democracy activists targeted
Liu, 54, was initially detained at his Beijing home Dec. 8 last year, two days ahead of the official release of the Charter on World Human Rights Day.
His case has drawn concern from U.S. officials and widespread calls from authors' groups and human rights organizations for his release.
Activists marked the first anniversary of the signing of Charter 08 this week with calls for Liu's release.
Fellow activists have been detained ahead of World Human Rights Day, while others have reported being under heavy police surveillance at home.
Fellow Charter 08 signatory and Guangdong Polytechnic University professor Wang Qingying, who was detained by Guangdong police in October while out hiking wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "One-Party dictatorship spells disaster everywhere," has had his contract terminated by his employers, a civil rights lawyer and close friend said.
"They have already done the paperwork," said Guangzhou-based lawyer Tang Jingling.
"The people who came to see him said that they were under extreme pressure from the government to fire him."
"They said it was partly because of Charter 08, and partly because of the T-shirt...It sounds as if he didn't get fairly compensated for the termination of his contract by the university, either."
Wang declined to comment when contacted by telephone Tuesday.
Charter 08 called for freedom of expression and association, free elections, and removal of the ruling Communist Party from control of the armed forces.
According to the activist network Chinese Rights Defenders, it has been signed by more than 10,000 people, including leading intellectuals, writers, and dissidents.
Liu, a former literature professor, has been an outspoken critic of the government since he joined a hunger strike supporting student protesters in 1989, just days before the army crushed the pro-democracy movement centered on Tiananmen Square.
He was later jailed for 20 months and then spent three years in a labor camp during the 1990s.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan and in Mandarin by Tang Qiwei. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.