[JURIST] Chinese authorities have charged prominent rights activist Liu Xiaobo with "inciting subversion of state power" [PRC Criminal Law article 105, PDF] according to a Wednesday report [text, in Chinese] by the state-run Xinhua news agency. Liu, who spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule, and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country. Liu has been held by police [AsiaNews report] since December, shortly before the petition's release. Advocacy groups Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Human Rights in China (HRIC) [press releases], as well as several foreign governments, have strongly condemned his arrest. HRIC included a statement by fellow activist Ding Zilin:
The arrest of Liu Xiaobo is a benchmark that shows yet another major contest between the forces of Chinese democracy and autocracy. Arresting Liu Xiaobo now demonstrates that in the contest between democracy and autocracy, the Chinese government has already resolved to take the latter path. But the choice of this path will allow the malignancy to continue to grow, and Chinas democracy and constitutional government will meet with even greater ruin.
If found guilty, Liu could face up to 15 years in prison.
Earlier this month, rights groups marked the 20th anniversary of the 1989 uprising in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, calling for the government to investigate the incident [JURIST report] and implement changes called for by Charter 08. More recently, China was criticized for an increase in political arrests [press release; JURIST report] leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, including the trial of dissident Hu Jia and the conviction [JURIST reports] of Yang Chunlin [AI profile] for the same "subversion" crime with which Liu is charged.