Liu Xiaobo: Vaclav Havel Confronts Chinese on Sentencing of Dissident

Article excerpt

Former dissident and Czech president Vaclav Havel visited the Chinese Embassy in Prague this week in support of Liu Xiaobo, a Charter 08 author and democracy activist who received an 11-year prison sentence last month. Mr. Havel was a principal author of Charter 77, which targeted suppression in the Soviet East Bloc.

Czech dissident playwright-president Vaclav Havel, a principal author

of East Europe's Charter 77, rang the door bell at the Chinese

Embassy in Prague this week to support another charter author, Liu

Xiaobo. Mr. Liu, co-author of a manifesto called Charter 08 and a

well-known democracy advocate, received an 11-year prison sentence on

Christmas Day by Beijing authorities.

But after three rings, Mr. Havel had to "post" a protest letter

to Chinese President Hu Jintao in an outdoor embassy mail slot.

Coming out of a relative seclusion, Havel has described frustration

along with other European human rights advocates at the relative

Western silence on the hefty sentence given Liu in Beijing.

"We are here now because we are asking the Chinese president and

Chinese government not to repeat what happened to us 33 years ago

,where fighters for freedom were pursued and persecuted," he

stated.

The Charter 08 manifesto in China, similar to the Charter 77

document, calls for major democratic reforms, including freer speech

and an end to China's one-party rule, and was signed online by

hundreds of ordinary Chinese, intellectuals, and even some mid- level

party officials when it first appeared on the Internet in China a

year ago.

Havel's letter called on Mr. Hu to "secure a fair and genuinely

open trial for Liu Xiaobo when the court hears his appeal."

After Charter 08 was published, Liu was immediately placed under

house arrest and later detained in an undisclosed location until his

sentence two weeks ago. European diplomats trying to attend his trial

in Beijing were not allowed in, though Liu's lawyer said his client

was imprisoned on subversion charges unrelated to the controversial

movement.

According to China's state-run news agency Xinhua, "Liu has been

engaged in agitation activities, such as spreading of rumors and

defaming of the government, aimed at subversion of the state and

overthrowing the socialism system in recent years," citing Chinese

police statements.

Last summer, several hundred signers of Charter 08 wrote an open

letter on his behalf, asking the state to "make good on the

'National Plan for Action on Human Rights,' to end its

unconstitutional practice of treating words as crimes, and to release

Mr. …