The Liu Xiaobo case was gradually fading out of people's mind when the Norwegian Nobel Committee pulled it back into spotlight.
The committee awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Liu, who was sentenced by the Chinese judiciary to 11 years in prison for "subversion of the State". After the prize was announced , some overseas media began defending the rabidly anti-China Liu, arguing that his remarks and acts were within the scope of a citizen's freedom of speech.
Does this argument hold any water? And what is the difference between opinions that constitute subversion of the state and remarks allowed within the scope of the freedom of speech?
Facts unveiled by Beijing No 1 intermediate people's court and Beijing high people's court that handled Liu's case show that he was guilty of two crimes. From October 2005 to August 2008, Liu wrote a series of articles for BBC's Chinese language website and other Internet outlets, instigating people to stand up against the Chinese government and overthrow it.
Between September and December 2008, Liu co-authored an article, advocating that China's "one-party monopolistic rule" should be abolished and replaced by a really "federal republic". Liu mobilized and organized more than 300 people to sign the article and then sent it to some overseas anti-China websites for dissemination.
Liu admitted to these crimes in court, but argued that he had only published some critical opinions and didn't have any intention of spreading rumors aimed at instigating "subversion of the State".
No country will allow remarks and acts that encourage people to overthrow the government, and China is no exception.
According to China's criminal law and its judicial practice, two factors determine whether an act constitutes "subversion of the State". It should start with the form of rumor, libel or other methods. And it should lead to some serious social consequences.
Liu's remarks and acts fall into the first category. For example, he claimed the "the New China established in 1949 is only a nominal people's republic, and it is essentially a CPC-dominated nation". He even said that "China is the only one among the current world's major countries that has established an authoritarian political state and this is the source of endless of human rights disasters and social crises".
Liu's remarks exposed his ulterior motive of trying to overthrow China's established socialist society by spreading rumors, and libeling and slandering against the State.
His anti-China remarks on the Internet have not only caused extensive negative effects on society, but also resulted in verbal attacks against the Chinese government from some anti-China forces overseas. This tainted the country's image in the international community. This is the second crime that Liu committed.
Liu was arrested in January 1991 on the charge of disseminating reactionary information. But because he "sincerely confessed" to his guilt and prayed for leniency, he was not given a criminal sentence. Instead, he was sentenced to three-year "labor education" in September 1996 on charges of "disturbance to social order".
Liu's capricious nature and his anti-Chinese government views prove that he is capable of committing new crimes, and hence he should be put behind bars.
Also, Liu's reactionary remarks posted on the Internet, which many others supported and signed, are beyond the scope of freedom of speech. Liu was sentenced for his repeated violations of the country's criminal laws, and not, unlike what some Western media say, only for offending the government by publishing some "critical opinions".
Laws and international conventions differ in forms and interpretations from country to country. Every country has set its own limits on "freedom of speech".
The United States code says that people who advocate revolts and violence against federal or local authorities will be subjected to criminal punishment.
In the United Kingdom, dissemination of remarks or intentions aimed at overthrowing the Queen is regarded as violation of the law. In Italy, any attack against the country's administrative and judicial organs is considered a crime. Germany, Canada, Australia and Singapore have similar regulations or stipulations.
Facts show that the so-called freedom of speech that the US guarantees its citizens is based on the precondition that their remarks do not constitute a threat to the country's political system and/or social stability.
Because of different cultural backgrounds, social conditions and legal systems, each country has adopted standards of freedom of speech that are different from others but conform to its judicial practices.
In the US and the UK, for instance, "the clear and present danger test" is taken as a standard for judges to pass a verdict on suspected violators of freedom of speech. Neither the US nor any other country grants freedom to its people to say and do whatever they want to because that would lead to anarchy. And anarchy is the last thing China, or any country, wants.
The article is written by Zhang Zhengyi, a commentator in Beijing.
(China Daily 11/03/2010 page9)