A victim of China’s oppressive authoritarian regime for most of his life, Liu Xianbin has repeatedly spoken out for human rights and democracy while sacrificing his own freedom. Liu and Chinese dissident writers Du Daobin and Zhou Yuanzhi are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Cisco, Systems Inc., currently pending in Federal Court in Maryland. Over the past decade, Cisco has enabled the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to crack down on dissent through highly sophisticated internet surveillance technology, known as the “Golden Shield Project”. Were it not for Cisco’s help , the Chinese Communist Party may not have had the tools and technology to persecute, punish and torture Liu for his peaceful and non-violent internet activities. (Download pdf of translated articles from Cisco's Chinese website about PSB business deals here.)
Born in 1968 in Sichuan Province, Liu Xianbin was attending Renmin University in Beijing when the pro-democracy student movement swept China. He participated in the 1989 protests, including the blocking of military vehicles in Tiananmen Square. Having lost faith in Communist Party rule, Liu helped to organize an anti-communist group and began writing articles criticizing the repression and violent crackdown of the Tiananmen incident and pushing for the establishment of a democratic party. For these "crimes", he was arrested in 1991 and eventually sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on charges of "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement," yet this was only the beginning of Liu’s activism.
Liu was not deterred by his time in prison and, after his release, he continued advocating for democracy. By 1996, Public Security officials were tracking Liu's activities and movements and brought him in for questioning. He constantly tried to avoid Public Security Bureau officials, but one day, a PSB department chief knocked on his door and took him away, while another officer searched his home. His wife managed to conceal his address book and brought herself to burn her diary, but recalls feeling stripped of her privacy and dignity. Later, when Liu was ill with tuberculosis, the police even came to pay him a visit in the hospital.
In 1998, Liu established the Sichuan branch of the Chinese Democratic Party. Around this time, a police car was stationed outside his home day and night, so Liu was not able to leave in order to print out his writings. Police also closely tracked his internet activity, including all of the articles he published and all of his correspondence. One day he gave his manuscript to his wife to print in a small shop. When the police discovered his writings were again being faxed and distributed, they became suspicious. The Public Security Bureau followed his wife and brought her in for interrogation, and proceeded to confiscate the shop owner's printer and copy machine.
In June of 1999, Liu and his family celebrated his daughter's second birthday. Little did they know this would be their one and only photograph taken together. A month later, the police came to their home and arrested Liu. He spent a month in a detention center before returning home to house arrest. In August, he was convicted of "subversion of state power" and sentenced to 13 years in prison with three years' deprivation of political rights.
He was sent to Chuandong Prison in rural Sichuan; his wife and young daughter had to brave treacherous mountain roads in order to visit him. Even then, their visits were limited to half an hour and took place separated by bulletproof glass, always under the supervision of prison guards. Liu spent over nine years in the prison, a laogai forced labor camp, which is home to enterprises like Dazhu Laodong Factory and Automobile Repair Shop.
Around the time of the anniversary of the Tiananmen incident, Public Security Bureau officials brought Liu's wife in for questioning. Because of her unyielding support for her husband, they threatened to remove her from her teaching position in her hometown of Suining and send her to the countryside to teach. While he still remained in prison, the police again came to search his home and again brought his wife in for interrogation and held her in detention overnight. She began to distance herself from friends and family in order to protect them, as simply being affiliated with Liu was enough to get one in trouble with the Public Security Bureau.
Released early for good behavior in 2008, Liu did not give up on his beliefs. He became one of the first signatories to the now famous Charter 08, a petition that calls for democratic reforms, which was authored in part by the now imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Liu continued to publish pro-democracy articles on a number of foreign-run websites, including the Laogai Research Foundation’s ObserveChina.net, for which he was arrested on June 28, 2010. On the same day he was detained, the police ransacked his home and confiscated his computer, books, magazines, and data storage devices. This time he was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" (see verdict at bottom of page). After being held in detention for over eight months, Liu's harsh sentence was handed down- 10 years in prison and deprivation of political rights for two years and four months. The sham trial lasted only two hours; he was not even given the chance to defend himself. His unusually harsh sentence reveals just how afraid the Chinese Communist Party has become of peaceful political dissidents like Liu.
Now reportedly held in Sichuan's Chuanzhong prison, also known as Chengdu Machine Tool Factory, Liu is likely forced to labor alongside the prison's 3,000 inmates, many of whom are serious criminals with life sentences. According to his wife, he has been subjected to harsh treatment, including solitary confinement and torture, because of his refusal to confess his “guilt”.
Who is Liu Xianbin? He is a husband and a father. He is a man whose family has been repeatedly torn apart by the Chinese Communist Party. He is a human being who spent 13 of the last 22 years behind bars, and who has spent a mere three years and seven months with his now 14-year-old daughter. He is a peaceful political activist who has, time and time again, been forced to make tough decisions that he knew would put his family and his freedom at risk. He is a firm believer in freedom of speech who never gave up on his ideals, and who has made great sacrifices for the sake of the Chinese people, even despite overwhelming pressure to stay silent.
Let Cisco Systems know that their support of the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to violate the human rights of peaceful political dissidents like Liu Xianbin will no longer be tolerated. To speak out, please contact your elected representatives and sign the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!
Excerpts from Liu Xianbin's 2010 Verdict:
From April 2009 to February 2010, Liu Xianbin wrote many articles including, “My Twenty Years in the China Democracy Movement -- The Arrest of Chen Wei, Part 1" 《我的民运二十年：陈卫被捕（之一）》, "The Street Movement is an Important Part of the Democracy Movement" 《街头运动是民主运动的重要形式》, and "100 Days Out of Jail"《出狱一百天》, and published them on a couple of overseas websites. In these articles, he slandered the Communist regime, saying that it “has been pursuing an oppressive reign of terror", so the Chinese citizens are living, "under the political police’s reign of terror," "living like slaves or machines." Liu encouraged “the creation of a powerful opposition group," so that "once the time is right, [it could] quickly become an organization with a fighting spirit," and it could "exert increasingly greater pressure on the authorities, so that the foundation of the ruling class would collapse.” All these statements are inciting others to subvert state power and overthrow China's socialist system.
In accordance with the second Item of Article 105, the first Item of Articles 55 and 56, and Articles 66, 71 and 46 of the PRC Criminal Law, as well as “How to Handle the Issues of New Crimes Committed While a Criminal is Serving the Additional Penalty or During the Deprivation of Political Rights” issued by the Supreme People's Court, the Court gives the following sentences:
1. Having committed the crime of inciting subversion of state power, Defendant Liu Xianbin is sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and deprivation of political rights for two years. In addition to this, he must serve the four months and eight days he had not completed before being detained. In total, he has to serve 10 years imprisonment and 2 years and four months’ deprivation of political rights;
2. All objects belonging to Liu that was used as evidence in this case shall be confiscated.