The United Nations human rights chief today voiced deep concern about the 10-year prison sentence handed down to Chinese activist Liu Xianbin for writing articles calling for democratic reforms.
“The extremely harsh sentencing of Liu Xianbin confirms the severe limits being imposed on freedom of expression in China, and is another example of the escalating clampdown on the activities of human rights defenders,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
“It runs counter to recent statements by China’s leadership recognizing the need for reform,” she added.
Ms. Pillay also noted a “worrying” increase in imprisonments, house arrests and other restrictions on lawyers and human rights defenders in China over the past 18 months.
Since October, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has received more than 100 reports of arrests, house arrests and other acts of intimidation, as well as the alleged disappearances of lawyers.
“Dissent is not a crime,” said Ms. Pillay, “and I urge the Chinese authorities to release any person detained for peacefully exercising his or her right to freedom of expression.”
For over a year now, the High Commissioner has publicly and privately raised concerns about cases involving human rights defenders in China, including the jailing of activist Liu Xiaobo – who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year – and the continued restrictions placed on his wife Liu Xia.
Liu Xiaobo was in December 2009 convicted and sentenced to 11 years for “inciting subversion of state power,” the same charge for which Liu Xianbin was sentenced, for his role in the drafting of the “Charter 08” petition, which called for political reforms in China.