New York City, December 23, 2009—Writer Liu Xiaobo pleaded not guilty to subversion charges in a trial that lasted less than three hours this morning in Beijing. The trial was closed to the public and press. Reports suggest that the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court will announce its verdict at 9:00 a.m. on Friday.

“It is certainly not reassuring that the court is planning on announcing the verdict on Christmas Day, when they undoubtedly hope the world’s attention will be turned away,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “But the world is watching this story closely with the hope that Liu will be released according to Chinese laws guaranteeing freedom of expression. We are looking to the court to follow the rule of law.”

Liu Xiaobo, a former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was indicted on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power” on December 11, 2009, for his role in the promulgation of Charter 08, a groundbreaking manifesto and petition calling for greater human rights and democracy and an end to one-party rule in China, as well as for six of his many articles posted on the Internet. If he is convicted of the charges on Friday, Liu could face up to 15 years in prison.

Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, was barred from attending today’s trial, and only two members of his family, a brother and a brother-in-law, were permitted to be inside the courtroom. Foreign diplomats were also barred from the courthouse despite applying for permits to attend the proceedings. However, over a dozen, including Gregory May, first secretary of the U.S. Embassy, joined supporters and journalists outside the courthouse.

Nearly all of the original 300 signatories of Charter 08 were warned to stay away from the courthouse, though some supporters managed to get past guards posted outside their homes. A handful were detained after the trial.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center, which works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled, has been working to end China’s imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance of writers and journalists and curtail Internet censorship and other restrictions on the freedom to write in that country. For more information, please visit


Related Articles

• December 11, 2009: Liu Xiaobo Formally Indicted

• December 7, 2009: PEN Renews Calls for Liu Xiaobo’s Release

• November 9, 2009: PEN Calls on President Obama to Stand Up for Free Expression in China

• October 2, 2009: PEN Applauds Passage of Congressional Resolution for Liu Xiaobo

• June 24, 2009: Writers Condemn Formal Arrest of Chinese Colleague Liu Xiaobo


Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105