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China Arrests Prominent Dissident on Subversion Charges


Chinese state media says a leading dissident, Liu Xiaob, has been formally arrested on charges of carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing China's socialist system. He had has been in police custody since the end of last year.

Police took Liu Xiaobo away on December 8, on day before the public release of a manifesto - called Charter 08 - which called for sweeping reforms to China's rigid political system. He was among more than 300 Chinese intellectuals who signed Charter 08. The document called for a new constitution guaranteeing human rights, election of public officials, freedom of religion and expression and an end to the Communist Party's hold over the military, courts and government.

Liu helped draft and revised the document. His lawyer, Mo Shaoping, has said he believes police detained Liu a day ahead of the manifesto's release because they considered him a key organizer.

China's official Xinhua News Agency quotes a Beijing police statement as saying Liu is charged with agitation activities aimed at subverting the state and overthrowing the socialist system. The statement also accuses him of spreading rumors and defaming the government.

Fifty-three-year-old Liu is a former university professor. In his writings, he has called for civil rights and political reform.

In an interview with AP Television last July, Liu urged the Chinese government to provide a legitimate way for Chinese people to protest.

Liu says, if the government does not set up places to protest, then it will have to face the prospect of protests happening at any time, anywhere, without any control - especially in what he describes as sensitive areas. He says the government knows it will be bad for China's image to crack down violently on protests.

Liu had spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square. In the 1990's, he also spent three years in a labor camp and eight months under virtual house arrest.

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