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No surprise, say supporters of jailed disside -

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No surprise, say supporters of jailed dissident

Ashley Hall reported this story on Friday, February 12, 2010 12:34:00

ASHLEY HALL: The international community has been quick to condemn the decision by a Chinese court
to uphold an 11 year jail sentence against the leading dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Canada have denounced the verdict against the
54-year-old writer and academic for his role in compiling Charter 08 - a manifesto calling for
political reform in China.

Liu Xiaobo's supporters say they weren't surprised by the court's decision.

Perry Link is an emeritus professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton University who worked on a
translation of Charter 08.

PERRY LINK: The document is addressed to fellow citizens of China from a group that you'd call
intellectuals in general although they made an effort to reach out to workers and even leaders of
farmers' movements so that it wouldn't be viewed as purely a dissident document.

And it wasn't a petition. This is sometimes misunderstood in the West. It wasn't asking the
Communist Party leadership to do anything.

It was a statement of the ideals, a blueprint if you will for what China might ideally look like if
it had democracy and constitutionalism and rule of law and all of the other things that the charter
listed. And it was addressed to fellow citizens.

ASHLEY HALL: Now one of the other misapprehensions about this charter is the suggestion that Liu
Xiaobo was one of the lead authors. As I understand it he was not in fact.

PERRY LINK: He played a very significant role near the end in helping find people to sign it. But
that's true. He was not one of the original drafters or you'd say one the main drafters.

I think it's no secret that the chief drafter was his friend Zhang Zuhua who had his home raided
after the charter came out but has not been arrested.

And then others contributed. It truly was a democratic effort in that about 100 people at least
gave some comments on revisions and so on and so it was a collective effort.

ASHLEY HALL: So why was he specifically targeted?

PERRY LINK: Well no-one knows of course because the top leadership are the ones that make this
decision.

But it certainly appears that the reason he was targeted is that he has been over the last 20
years, one would say since the Tiananmen demonstrations and the Beijing massacre, one of the most
obdurate dissidents. That is even among dissidents he has a reputation for being very blunt and
very frank. People like him even though he's very frank.

He was in the United States when the Tiananmen movement happened and voluntarily came back to China
and participated in the movement and was arrested shortly thereafter. And then later in the 90s for
other things that he wrote about democracy and human rights was, and remembering the Tiananmen
massacre, was arrested again.

So this is the third time that he's gone to jail. He's more or less used to it. And he's, all
things considered what you'd say is the best known dissident. And I think that's why the Government
chose him because their purpose quite clearly is to intimidate others. So they take the top person
and they put him away for a long time and this is a signal to everyone else to watch out.

ASHLEY HALL: So how surprised then were you with the court decision to reaffirm the 11 year prison
sentence?

PERRY LINK: I wasn't at all surprised that the Intermediate Court - just yesterday was it? -
reaffirmed the sentence. I don't think that Liu Xiaobo himself had any hope at all that the court
would act differently.

ASHLEY HALL: So what was his purpose then?

PERRY LINK: Well one of his good friends Zhang Tse-tung (phonetic) has written an essay addressing
that question and says that what Liu Xiaobo wants to do is record for history exactly what happens
when an independent intellectual stands up to an authoritarian state from start to finish as it
were, just to show the final denouement of the whole process.

And I frankly am not sure he's terribly disappointed at going to prison. He's been there before.
And he himself made a statement when he issued his appeal saying that in the long run in order to
achieve true freedom in China one has to face going to prison.

And he views his step into prison as the first step toward that ultimate goal of freedom for all of
China. He put it that way.

ASHLEY HALL: So he views it as a step along the road to a truly civil society but what about to his
fellow dissidents? What sort of effect is it having on them? Has all dissent been suppressed?

PERRY LINK: No I don't think so. Certainly the purpose was to intimidate and that purpose continues
and that purpose happened before he was sentenced.

In the signing of Charter 08 we have a lot of stories about the original signers being approached
and trying to persuade them to remove their names and to warn them that their families will suffer
if they don't. So the intimidation is ongoing.

But for the ones that are at the heart of the movement I think the sentence, although it was
somewhat of a shock that it was that heavy, actually fuels them as much as it discourages them.

ASHLEY HALL: Perry Link, thank you for talking to The World Today.

PERRY LINK: You're certainly welcome.