HONG KONG—Authorities in the Chinese capital have formally indicted a leading dissident for subversion, one year after his arrest for helping to draft a document calling for broad reforms to China's political system.
A lawyer acting for Liu Xiaobo, who is generally credited as the chief architect of the controversial Charter 08 document released online a year ago, said the procuratorate had followed police recommendations and formally charged Liu with subversion.
"The wording of the announcement is basically the same as that of the police report," Liu's lawyer Shang Baojun said.
The decision will pave the way for the beginning of Liu's trial within the next 10 days, he added.
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.
Fellow Charter 08 signatory Mo Shaoping, who is himself a defense lawyer for many of China's prisoners of conscience, said the decision had been taken by China's state prosecutor, the Beijing branch of the People's Procuratorate, without consultation with Shang.
"The investigating agencies are supposed to seek the opinion of the defense attorney during the course of the investigations, but they didn't do this," he said.
"This is in contravention of the relevant rules and legislation," Mo said.
Mo said the case against Liu was mostly built around six articles he published since 2005, as well as his participation in the drafting and promotion of Charter 08.
The articles appeared on foreign news Web sites including China Observer and the BBC, and including titles such as "China's Dictatorial Patriotism," "The Many Facets of Chinese Communist Party Dictatorship," and "The Negative Effects on World Democracy of the Rise of Dictatorship."
Mo said the indictment document described Liu's crimes as "very great," accusing him of "using rumors and slander to overthrow the socialist system."
Heavy sentence possible
Crimes that are "very great" carry a possible jail term of up to 15 years, according to China's criminal code, he added.
"I am fairly sure that Liu Xiaobo will get a heavy sentence," Liu's
wife Liu Xia said.
"I had some warning when the case was moved to the procuratorate."
"I just want to tell him to take good care of himself, and that I will be with him through all of this."
China's growing band of defense lawyers, themselves often the targets of official harassment and detention, say China's subversion laws are misused by the ruling Communist Party to quash critical voices who are on the verge of finding a wider audience.
Civil rights lawyer Li Heping said there is a fundamental problem with the crime of "incitement to subversion."
"It is a fundamental right of the citizen to express their opinions in
words," Li said.
"This should not be treated as any sort of criminal activity, still less that of subverting state power."
"Liu himself is innocent. The problem lies with the charge against him."
No access to media
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.
Analysts say that if Liu is jailed for subversion, he will be effectively cut off from foreign journalists and from gaining further publicity for his views.
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 last week with calls for Liu's release.
Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao.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.