Third prominent dissident faces 'tofu buildings' subversion trial

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2011, 12:00am

A veteran mainland dissident will stand trial on Friday on a subversion charge for advocating street protests and lambasting corrupt officials over the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan .

The Suining Intermediate People's Court will hear Sichuan-based political activist Liu Xianbin's case on suspicion of 'inciting subversion of state power' in five of his articles, which had been published and widely circulated on the internet, Chen Mingxian , Liu's wife, said yesterday.

'I have been totally in the dark about the date of the trial before Ma Xiaopeng , the lawyer representing my husband, told me on Monday,' said Chen.

Her husband's appeals for street protests and the release of Tan Zuoren and Huang Qi were the main reasons for his arrest in late June, she said.

Liu could become the third prominent mainland activist to be jailed for urging an investigation of the so-called tofu buildings.

Both Tan and Huang were jailed for their persistence in looking into the shoddy buildings, which were widely considered the main cause of the deaths of students in the quake.

As one of the student leaders during the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and a founding member of the Chinese Democratic Party later, Liu is committed to fighting for democratic reform and, as a result, spent a total of 13 years in jail for political activities before his release in late 2008.

'I am extremely pessimistic about the jail term my husband will probably get, particularly considering the timing of his trial during a politically sensitive spell after Liu Xiaobo's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize and the ongoing Chinese version of the so-called jasmine rallies on Sundays.'

To mark the anniversary of Charter 08, Liu Xianbin, one of its first signatories, wrote in an article that street protests were an unavoidable stage in the pursuit of democracy.

Charter 08 was a political manifesto calling for human rights, civil liberty and democratic reform in China. Some of the nation's prominent intellectuals, including Liu Xiaobo, initiated it.

Since last month, internet posts emerged to call on the Chinese people to stage their own 'jasmine revolution' in the Middle East, which began in Tunisia in December. But such messages saw no massive gathering after drawing a heavy police presence in every suggested venue.

Liu Xianbin praised both Tan and Huang as heroes for their courage in seeking justice for the quake victims and voiced his sorrow over their imprisonment, lashing out at a government that lacks checks and balances for blatant persecution of upright, decent and brave citizens.

Under such a tight political atmosphere, Chen urged authorities to treat her husband in a civilised way. 'Just like those who believe the same as Xianbin, he has never harboured a bit of ill thought, nor borne the slightest grudge against the country which he loves unconditionally. I, therefore, hope they will give him a sentence as lenient as possible,' she said.