Trial in China Signals New Limits on Dissent

Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most prominent advocates of democratic change, was tried Wednesday on charges of subversion, a sign that Chinese leaders are reducing their already limited tolerance for peaceful political dissent.Mr. Liu, an essayist and social critic who has spent more than a year in detention, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of charges legally defined as “incitement to subvert state power.” His lawyer said a verdict in the closed trial was likely to be announced on Friday. Charging one of the best-known dissidents with subversion is a disheartening milestone in the eyes of some Chinese legal experts and human rights advocates.China has rarely brought political charges against people advocating peaceful dissent in recent years, though it often accuses those who offend the authorities of other crimes, like tax evasion, leaking state secrets or violating business regulations.

During the past year, the government has tightened restrictions on access to the Internet, suppressed the country’s small band of public advocacy lawyers and jailed activists who blamed poor school construction for the deaths of thousands of children during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

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