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What Constitutes Liu Xiaobo’s “Incitement to Subvert State Power”?

December 23, 2009

The trial of prominent intellectual Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) in the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court (北京市第一中级人民法院) took less than three hours under near total security lock down outside the courtroom. Like much of China’s judicial process, especially cases deemed politically sensitive, what happened inside the courtroom remains largely out of public view. What is known includes: Liu pleaded not guilty to the charge of “incitement to subvert state power”; about twenty people attended the trial as observers, including Liu’s brother, Liu Xiaoxuan (刘晓暄), and brother-in-law; the presiding judge was Jia Lianchun (贾连春), who previously convicted and sentenced rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) and AIDs activist Hu Jia (胡佳) on the same charges; and the verdict will be issued on Friday, December 25.

Many were barred from the trial, including Liu’s wife, Liu Xia (刘霞). Personnel from about a dozen foreign embassies in Beijing, including those of the United States, Germany, and Australia, requested to observe the trial but were told that all the observer passes had already been given out. Liu’s lawyers, Zhang Baojun (尚宝军) and Ding Xikui (丁锡奎), are reportedly under strict orders from the State Judicial Bureau not to grant any interview until after the verdict.

Liu, 53, has been in detention for more than a year, since December 8, 2008, one day before the release of Charter 08. In the weeks before his trial, more than 450 co-signatories of Charter 08 have signed an online petition accepting collective responsibility. Last week, activist Ding Zilin (丁子霖) called upon Liu’s supporters to “join” the trial by gathering outside the courtroom. Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that many rights activists who had planned to go to the court, including Ding Zilin herself, have been put under surveillance or house arrest, and others who made it to the court, including Jiang Qisheng (江棋生), Zhang Hong (章虹), Zhang Xianling (张先玲), Liu Di (刘荻), and Teng Biao (滕彪), were forcibly taken away by police.

Liu’s lawyers pointed out that the government bases its charge on 1). Liu’s role in drafting and organizing the signing of Charter 08, an appeal for human rights protection and political reform issued in December 2008 that has since garnered more than 10,000 signatures online, and 2). six essays that Liu published between 2005 and 2007.

“If proposing democratic reform and raising questions about the current leadership constitute incitement to subvert state power, then freedom of speech has been completely gutted in China,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China.

So that the public can get a closer look at what the Chinese government considers to be “incitement to subvert state power,” HRIC is providing below the English translation of excerpts from Liu’s six essays.


                                                     Six Essays by Liu Xiaobo

“The CPC’s Dictatorial Patriotism” (《中共的独裁爱国主义》) (2005)

“Can it be that the Chinese People Deserve Only ‘Party-Led Democracy’?” (《难道中国人只配接受“党主民主”》) (2006)

“Changing the Regime by Changing Society”  (《通过改变社会来改变政权》) (2006)

“The Multifaceted Chinese Communist Party Dictatorship” (《多面的中共独裁》) (2006)

“The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democracy” (《独裁崛起对世界民主化的负面效应》) (2006)

“Further Questions about Child Slavery in China’s Kilns” (《对黑窑童奴案的继续追问》) (2007)

    Essay excerpts selected and translated by Human Rights in China, December 2009


From “The CPC’s Dictatorial Patriotism” (《中共的独裁爱国主义》) (2005)
. . . Since the Communist Party of China (CPC) took power, it has always yakked about patriotism in order to maintain its absolute rule over the people and country. It has also emphasized a specious logic of governance — the theory of “death of the party is death of the nation”. . . .

In fact, the “death of the party” and the “death of the nation” have no inevitable causality. This is because any political party is a representative of a special interest group and does not have the grounds to assert that it represents the “nation, ethnic groups, and people.” Even if it is the ruling party, it does not equal the nation, and even less the ethnic groups or culture. The CPC regime does not equal China, and even less the Chinese culture. . . .

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people. The official patriotism advocated by the CPC dictatorship is a fallacious system of “substituting the party for the country.” The essence of this patriotism is to demand that the people love the dictatorship, the one-party rule, and the dictators. It usurps patriotism in order to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on the people.
(The original Chinese article was first published on the Epoch Times website on October 4, 2005,


From “Can it be that the Chinese People Deserve Only ‘Party-Led Democracy’?” (《难道中国人只配接受“党主民主”》) (2006)

 . . . The “Party power theory”* publicly affirmed China’s current system of the supreme power of the Party. Whether it is the abstract idea of democratic construction of popular sovereignty, the protection of human rights and specific human rights written into the Constitution, the institution of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference or the political consultative system, the so-called democratic centralism with Chinese characteristics, the grassroots democracy process, or the rule by law – all of these must follow the guidance of the CPC and have nothing to do with popular sovereignty. . . .

Time and time again, people pin their hopes for top-down political reform on those who have newly assumed office, but they end up disappointed each time. The most absurd part is that disappointment after disappointment still has not extinguished what little hope people have in the CPC-initiated reforms. . . .

A saying on how to conduct one’s self goes: Man is born free and equal. Universal enslavement and inequality are never due to the ruler being too powerful or brilliant, but because those ruled knelt down. . . .

For the emergence of a free China, placing hope in the ruler of a “new government” is an idea far worse than placing hope in the continuous expansion of the “new power” among the people. The day that dignity among the people is firmly established conceptually and legally is the day that Chinese people’s human rights are protected systematically.
(The original Chinese article was first published in Observe China [《观察》], January 5, 2006,

* Editor’s Note: In this essay, Liu said that the “Party power theory” was articulated in “China's Construction of Democratic Politics” (《中国的民主政治建设》), a white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council on October 19, 2005,


From “Changing the Regime by Changing Society” (《通过改变社会来改变政权》) (2006)

. . . China’s course of transformation into a modern, free society is bound to be gradual and full of twists and turns. The length of time it will take may surpass even the most conservative estimates. . . .

The greatness of nonviolent resistance is that even as man is faced with forceful tyranny and the resulting suffering, the victim responds to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason. That is, the victim, with modesty and dignified love, takes the initiative to invite the victimizer to return to reason, peace, and compassion, thereby transcending the vicious cycle of “replacing one tyranny with another”. . . .

In short, China’s course toward a free society will mainly rely on bottom-up gradual improvement and not the top-down “Chiang Ching-kuo style” revolution [in Taiwan].

** Bottom-up reform requires consciousness among the people, self-initiated persistence, and continuously expanding civil disobedience movements or rights defense movements among the people. In other words, pursue the free and democratic forces among the people; do not pursue the rebuilding of society through radical regime change, but instead use gradual social change to compel regime change. That is, rely on the continuously growing civil society to reform a regime that lacks legitimacy.

(The original Chinese article was first published in Observe China [《观察》], February 26, 2006,

** Editor’s Note: In 1987, President Chiang Ching-kuo ended martial law in Taiwan, and began a gradual process of political liberalization. While he did not legalize opposition, he allowed opposition groups to form and did not persecute opposing candidates.


From “The Many Aspects of CPC Dictatorship” (《多面的中共独裁》) (2006)

Although the CPC regime of the post-Mao era is still a dictatorship, it is no longer fanatical, but rather, a rational dictatorship that has become more and more skillful at benefit analysis. Particularly after the June Fourth Massacre, no amount of effort could ease the rapid decline of CPC ideology. In addition, the profit-before-everything mentality, widespread corruption, and social polarization brought about by the “one-legged reform” further threatened the regime’s legitimacy. The crisis grew to the point where even the fanning of a dictatorship-sponsored nationalism failed to truly win the hearts and minds of the people. . . .

However, it is precisely the thoroughly opportunistic nature of the CPC’s nimble control that reveals the doomsday landscape of the dictatorship—countless flaws in the system itself, questions of the regime’s legitimacy, and rapid erosion of its effectiveness— where the ruler and the ruled engage in a cooperation based on the principle of profit-before-everything. The loyalty bought by the promise of a comfortable life is actually a soul that is rotten to the core. Driven by profit-making above all else, almost no officials are uncorrupted, not a single penny is clean, nor a single word honest. Thus, all of the tricks used by the CPC are stop-gap measures for the dictators to preserve the last phase of their power and will not be able to support for long this dictatorial edifice that is already showing countless cracks.

(The original Chinese article was first published in Observe China [《观察》], March 13, 2006,


From “The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democratization” (《独裁崛起对世界民主化的负面效应》) (2006)

. . . To eliminate the negative effects of the sudden rise of the CPC dictatorship, we must help the world’s largest dictatorial country to become a free and democratic country as soon as possible. In the great cause of global democratization, China is a key link: if China is in the game, the game is alive. Therefore, whether to let the CPC dictatorship that has taken more than one billion people hostage, continue to degrade human civilization or to rescue the world’s largest group of hostages from enslavement – this is a priority not only for the Chinese people themselves but also for all free nations. Were China to become a free country, its value to human civilization would be incalculable. It would inevitably, following the international collapse of the totalitarian empires of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, bring about a new global avalanche among the remaining dictatorial systems. It would be difficult for dictatorial regimes such as North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba, and Vietnam to continue; and those Middle Eastern countries that are firmly entrenched in their dictatorial systems would also suffer a great blow.
(The original Chinese essay is archived by the Independent Chinese Pen Center and available at The excerpts are from this version. An abbreviated Chinese version was published on May 3, 2006, under a different title, “Negative Effects of China’s Rise on World Democratization,” indictment cites the title of the unabbreviated version but sources the essay to BBC, where the abbreviated version with a different title was published.)


From “Further Questions about Child Slavery in China’s Kilns” (《对黑窑童奴案的继续追问》) (2007)

It has been nearly two months since the shocking news of the “black kilns” run on slave labor in Shanxi came to light. But vis-a-vis the storm of public opinion at home and abroad demanding greater accountability, the numerous instructions issued by the central and local governments, the staff deployed, the apologies, and the tens of thousands of police who blanketed the site to investigate, and especially the Shanxi authorities’ urgent command that all slaves be rescued within ten days – the case seemed to have been handled much too perfunctorily. . . .

It is not a lack of humanity on the part of individual officials that makes the Hu-Wen regime so cold-blooded, but the barbarism of the dictatorship itself. As long as it is a dictatorship, it will never learn to respect life and protect human rights. A ruling clique that makes maintenance of its own monopoly on power its first priority cannot treasure the lives of its people, including those of its children. It is precisely because a dictatorship does not treat people as human beings that such heinous crimes can take place.

In short, dictatorial power is as cold as ice. Officials of all ranks who keep their sight only on their own positions cannot feel warmth. Since the Communist Party of China (CPC) took power, generations of CPC dictators have cared most about their own power and least about human life. Without systemic change, evils like the black kilns will hardly be touched, let alone rooted out.

(The original Chinese article was first published in Ren Yu Ren Quan [《人与人权》], July 16, 2007,

(The HRIC English translation of the article was originally published in China Rights Forum, 2007, no. 4, 80-86,

For more information about the Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 see:


Press Contacts:
Mi Ling

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