Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Two interesting letters in the Liu Xiaobo case

Vaclav Havel, one of the original Czech dissidents behind Charter 77 (an inspiration for Charter 08), tried (with other co-signatories) to deliver a letter protesting Liu Xiaobo's sentence to the Chinese embassy in Prague. Since nobody would open the doors to them, they had to leave it in the mailbox.

Today, the New York Times carries a letter from Lois Snow, the widow of Edgar Snow, protesting Liu's sentence. Here's an article with some background.

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Prof. Clark, are you aware of the fact Liu Xiaobo received hundreds of thousands of US government funding via the NED in the past five years? Check NED's China grants for Independent Chinese Pen Center and Zhongguo Minzhu magazine, which Liu heads.

Pray tell, why would we lament Chinese money corrupting our political process, while sending many folds more to China, to corrupt their political process? Advocating overthrowing of the Chinese government? Abolition of China’s constitution?

This is by no means a straight foward case of free speech. Liu took foreign money the Chinese government has every right to prohibit (as we do under FARA.)

Posted by: Chas | Jan 10, 2010 3:19:54 PM

I'm puzzled by the comment above, which does not seem related to the charges brought against Liu. I would suggest reading the verdict (link here:, which contains the prosecution's charges and the court's conclusions. Neither the prosecution in its charges, nor the court in its conclusions, raises the issue of foreign funds received by Liu personally or by any organizations with which he's associated. Since the prosecution evidently didn't find anything illegal there, I don't know the commenter's basis for saying that Liu did something that was prohibited by law.

Posted by: Don Clarke | Jan 11, 2010 12:59:26 PM

Prof. Clark, here's an excerpt from the original verdict (page 3, prosecution evidence section, item 2):


It states financial record obtained by prosecution proves Liu Xia's account accepted foreign remittance:

"2, and from Bank of China's Beijing and Mushi branches prove: bank account belonging to Liu Xioabo's wife received, and withdrew, foreign remittance" (sorry, my translation is less elegant but more litteral)

Also, please note the term "境外"(foreign), liberally used throughout the verdict. It appears the Chinese court saw Liu Xiaobo's political speech as exceeding "limit of free speech"(超出言论自由的范畴) because of appearant foreign sponsorship.

That, is consistent with FARA.

Posted by: Chas | Jan 12, 2010 10:57:04 AM

Thank you, Chas. But the reciting of certain facts in the charges or verdict is not enough. For example, the verdict also recites the facts that Liu is a male of Han nationality. The important point in a criminal prosecution is whether the charges or the verdict allege that receipt of this foreign money, assuming it happened, violates any law. They do not so allege. If you think they overlooked some law that Liu violated, what is it? You mention FARA in your posts. What is the Chinese equivalent, how do you believe Liu violated it, and why do you think these violations were not mentioned in the indictment or verdict? If one is going to sentence someone to 11 years in prison, or to support such a sentence, I think one needs to be pretty specific about what the crime is and where it's defined so that the defendant can defend and so that observers can reach their own judgment.

Posted by: Don Clarke | Jan 12, 2010 8:52:03 PM

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