Six Months Later: What’s Next for Liu Xiaobo?

As reported earlier on CDT, the lawyer representing Liu Xiaobo has called on authorities to either release the Charter ’08 co-author or formally charge him.  The Dui Hua Human Rights Journal has compiled a list of Liu’s possible fates in China’s criminal justice system:

According to reliable reports, police have been holding Liu under “residential surveillance” (监视居住) in a hotel located in the Beijing suburbs. One of several “coercive measures” (强制措施) provided for under China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), residential surveillance authorizes police to restrict a suspect from leaving his or her residence while an investigation is carried out. In this case, police in Beijing appear to have violated the law and applicable regulations by holding Liu in a hotel, rather than his residence. The six-month time limit established by law for this status is set to expire soon, presumably on or shortly after June 8, 2009.

There is some uncertainty about what might happen to Liu when the period of residential surveillance expires—in part because the charge against him has not been made public and few know exactly why he is being held. Though more attention has been paid in recent years to abiding by certain provisions of the CPL, Chinese law-enforcement authorities have in the past frequently ignored legally established rights and time limits, especially in cases like this one that appear to be of a political nature.

It is clear, however, that when the six-month period expires it will be unlawful for Chinese police to simply continue holding Liu Xiaobo under residential surveillance. Some change to his status will need to be made, and no matter what, this change should have significant consequences. Based on a careful reading of the CPL and the associated regulations on implementing the CPL issued by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security, Dui Hua believes that Beijing police have the following options open to them:


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