Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Chinese angered by 'interference' in dissident trial

Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia in Beijing (October 2002)

China has accused foreign diplomats of meddling in its internal affairs, after some were critical of the trial of prominent Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The country's foreign ministry urged those who had expressed concerns about the trial to respect its legal process.

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the criticism was a "gross interference" in China's internal affairs.

Dissident Liu Xiaobo is on trial for "inciting subversion of state power". A verdict is expected on Friday.

The EU, US and rights groups say the trial is politically motivated and have called on Beijing to release Mr Liu.

Diplomats from more than a dozen states - including the US, Britain, Canada, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand - denied access to the court to follow the trial, have stood outside since it began on Wednesday.

'Strong dissatisfaction'

"Some officials from some countries' embassies in China released so-called statements, which is a gross interference in China's judicial internal affairs," Ms Jiang said, adding that these violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

She expressed China's "strong dissatisfaction" over their actions, adding that China's "judicial sovereignty" should be respected.

Mr Liu, a prominent government critic and veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests, could be jailed for 15 years if convicted.

A writer and former university professor, he has been in jail since 2008, after being arrested for writing a document calling for political reform in China.

Known as Charter 08 and released to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it called for greater freedoms and democratic reforms in China, including an end to Communist one-party rule.

The trial has been heavily criticised by right groups, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) describing it as "a travesty of justice".

The charge of "inciting subversion of state power" is a wide-reaching accusation often levelled against political dissidents in China.

The BBC's Micky Bristow, in Beijing, says that dissidents put on trial in China are almost always found guilty, and it looks likely that Mr Liu will be jailed.

If convicted, Mr Liu's name will certainly become more widely known outside China, but few people in the country know who he is, a situation that is unlikely to change with the verdict, he adds.

According to the BBC's Monitoring service, China's state media have ignored Mr Liu's trial and the international protests about it.

US-based Chinese-language websites, however, have covered the story and reported both protests and pro-Liu campaigns inside China.

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