December 24, 2009 / 9:02 AM / 9 years ago

China decries Western "meddling" in dissident trial

BEIJING (Reuters) - China denounced foreign diplomatic “meddling” in the trial this week of Liu Xiaobo, a dissident facing up to 15 years in prison for authoring works calling for greater civil and political freedoms.

A portrait of one of China's best known dissidents Liu Xiaobo is displayed by a protester in front of the national emblem of China outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong June 25, 2009. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Diplomats from the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries were barred from the courthouse when Liu’s trial began on Wednesday, as were journalists and all but two members of his family. His wife was prevented by police from leaving her home.

A verdict is expected to be announced at around 9.30 am EST on Friday, Christmas Day, his wife Liu Xia told Reuters by telephone.

Liu Xiaobo is charged with incitement to subvert state power, which can carry a term of five to 15 years in prison.

He is the only author or signatory to be prosecuted for the Charter 08 manifesto, launched in December last year, which called for sweeping political reforms in China.

“Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese citizen, and the Chinese legal system is handling the case independently by law, so this is entirely an internal Chinese affair,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news briefing on Thursday.

“Some countries or their embassy personnel expressed so-called statements on this matter, which we regard as crude meddling in China’s internal affairs.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction with this, and demands that these countries respect China’s judicial sovereignty and not meddle again in China’s domestic affairs,” Jiang said.

Many human rights activists suspect the date for the verdict was chosen to reduce international attention to the case.

“This trial, condemned by human rights activists worldwide, along with the European Union and the United States, is an affront to the rule of law in China,” Reporters Without Borders said. (Reporting by Lucy Hornby and Huang Yan; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Ron Popeski)

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