Readers may recall that Liu Xiaobo, one of the authors of Charter 08, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas day last year. You would think that following imprisonment, it would at least be easy to keep track of someone, but in China you would be wrong.
Unlike Gao Zhisheng, Mr. Liu hasn’t disappeared, although his family had been prevented from seeing him. But despite regulations that stipulated he be transferred to Liaoning, the province of his hukou registration, he continued to be held in Beijing well beyond his sentencing. This excellent post appeared from on the blog Siweilouzi on May 18:
Under China’s legal system, a defendant in a criminal trial has the right to appeal a decision only once, and the decision of the appellate court is final. Once that decision takes legal effect, we can normally expect commencement of the process of transfer from the detention center (run by the police) to a prison (managed by the local arm of the Ministry of Justice).
In Beijing, where Liu was convicted, this post-trial transfer process works a bit differently than in other parts of China, because special regulations in the capital restrict non-Beijing residents from serving their sentences in Beijing prisons. Convicted criminals whose place of household registration (hukou) is elsewhere are first held in a special “repatriation” detention center pending transfer to serve out the remainder of their sentences in their home provinces.
The verdict in Liu’s case made clear that, despite having lived legally in Beijing for many years, his household registration remained in the province of his birth, Liaoning. (The fact that his status in Beijing could be considered “temporary”—an interpretation that, though not entirely convincing, has at least some basis in Chinese law—helps explain why Liu’s initial six-month period of “residential surveillance” was not carried out in his home.) Under these circumstances, we should expect Liu to serve his sentence in a Liaoning prison.
Liu Xia has notified me that she got a letter from the prison on the 26th, saying that Xiaobo had already been moved to the Jinzhou prison [in Liaoning]. Xiaobo has no connection whatsoever with Jinzhou, they are doing things this way to intentionally torment his relatives.
Indeed, the move to Jinzhou is an inconvenient one for his close family, as he had been living in Beijing for many years. But as the Siweiluozi blog indicates, if Liu’s hukou registration is in Liaoning, moving him there does make some sense. But is Liu’s household registration really in Liaoning? In contrast with the article above, most online sources (including what appears to be a letter he wrote himself) cite his place of birth as Changchun, which is in Jilin province.
Of course, Jilin and Liaoning are neighboring provinces, but Changchun and Jinzhou are not particularly close. And if Mr. Liu was born in Jilin, why would he have been moved to a Liaoning prison at all? As always, the machinations of the system are so easily obfuscated by the wall of bureaucrats between, say, Mr. Liu’s wife and himself, that it’s very difficult to tell what’s going on.
I reject the idea that Liu should be in prison in the first place, but if he must be, shouldn’t the proper procedures be followed? Doesn’t his wife have the right to know where he is, when he is being moved, and shouldn’t she get a chance to contact him from time to time?