Havel’s Open Letter to Hu Jintao on Liu Xiaobo’s Jail

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Open Letter

Prague, January 6, 2010

Your Excellency,

On December 23, the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court – after holding him for over a year without trial – sentenced respected intellectual and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Mr. President, we would like you to know that we do not consider this trial an independent judicial process in which neither you nor your government can interfere. In fact, it is just the opposite. Mr. Liu’s trial was the result of a political order for which you carry ultimate political responsibility. We are convinced that this trial and harsh sentence meted out to a respected, well-known, and prominent citizen of your country merely for thinking and speaking critically about various political and social issues was chiefly meant as a stern warning to others not to follow his path.

Thirty-three years ago, on January 6th, 1977, we, playwright Vaclav Havel, actor Pavel Landovsky, and writer Ludvik Vaculik, were arrested by the police in our own country, then a one-party Communist state, for “committing” exactly the same “crime”: the drafting of Charter 77 and collection of signatures with the intent to call on our own government to respect our country’s constitution, its international obligations, and basic civic and human rights. Later, some of us were also sentenced to long prison terms in politically ordained judicial proceedings, just as the court in Beijing shamefully sentenced Mr. Liu Xiaobo in December 2009.

We strongly believe, and we dare to remind you and your Government, that there is nothing subversive to state security when intellectuals, artists, writers and academics exercise their core vocation: to think, re-think, ask questions, criticize, act creatively, and try to initiate open dialogue. On the contrary, the present and future well-being of a society is undermined when governments suppress intellectual debate.

There is nothing subversive to state security or damaging to future prosperity when citizens act guided by their own will and according to their best knowledge and conscience, when they associate among themselves to discuss and express peacefully their concerns and visions about the future development of their society.

On the contrary, a country’s material and spiritual future is undermined when its citizens are not allowed to act, associate, think and speak freely.

This is why we call upon you and your Government to secure a fair and genuinely open trial for Liu Xiaobo when the court hears his appeal.

We are also asking you and your Government to end the house arrests and police surveillance which have been imposed on other Charter 08 signatories. We call upon you and your Government to end the criminalization of free speech and to release all prisoners of conscience.

Mr. President, we would like you to know that we will continue to watch carefully the treatment of Mr. Liu Xiaobo and other signatories of Charter 08. We will, together with many of our colleagues from the Czech Republic and Slovakia who signed the original Charter 77, make continued and sustained efforts to draw international attention to their plight.

With regards,

Vaclav Havel, playwright

Pavel Landovsky, autor

Vaclav Maly, Bishop of Prague

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