Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sentencing philosophy in Chinese criminal law: Zhang Xiaojun versus Liu Xiaobo

According to the official Xinhua report, Zhang Xiaojun was Gu Kailai’s accomplice in a premeditated murder. He was convicted of intentional homicide. His sentence was nine years.

According to the official indictment, Liu Xiaobo committed the following acts:

  • He published a number of “inciting articles” containing “rumors and slanders” (no slanders against any persons living or dead are mentioned in the indictment).
  • Together with others, he "drafted and concocted" Charter 08.
  • He distributed Charter 08 via e-mail to overseas websites and posted it on overseas websites.

That’s it. Really. See for yourself. He was sentenced to eleven years.

Just sayin’.

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You can find examples of apparently inconsistent sentencing like this in any country.

Posted by: Fred | Aug 21, 2012 1:22:03 AM

True - but are these sentences really inconsistent? Or are they in fact quite consistent with the priorities of those who decided them? This is not a case of apparent odd sentencing due simply to the problems of maintaining consistency in a large bureaucracy. These sentences were not issued by different courts in a far-flung bureaucracy. They were (almost everyone who studies China believes) decided on by exactly the same small group of people: the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Of course, if one believes that Liu's and Gu's sentences were in fact decided by the judges who actually presided over their trials, then it's true that one can't draw conclusions about the values of the system simply on the basis of these sentences. But I don't believe that.

Posted by: Don Clarke | Aug 21, 2012 12:17:21 PM

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