More than a year after being detained, and sixth months after being charged with subversion, prominent dissident and long-time democracy activist Liu Xiaobo was finally given a trial on December 23rd. Foreign diplomats, including US embassy officials, were barred from attending Mr. Liu's two-hour trial and instead congregated outside the court to await the verdict. The Chinese government shrewdly waited until Christmas Day to announce that Liu Xiaobo would be sentenced to eleven years in the Laogai. Despite the timing of the sentencing, numerous governments and human rights activists have already condemned Mr. Liu's harsh sentence. According to the verdict, which can be seen here (in Chinese), Mr. Liu was arrested on purely political grounds, and his harsh sentence comes in response to numerous articles he has published on the Internet. Hong Kong-based journalist Willy Lam argues in this article that the regime handed down such a harsh sentence in order to instill fear in the general public, as "mass incidents" are on the rise (an estimated 100,000 demonstrations in 2009 alone) and more and more Chinese internet users are exploiting cracks in China's Great Firewall to push for freedom of speech.