Liu Xiaobo – the quiet, determined teller of China’s inconvenient truths
Mild-mannered, cultured, gently spoken – even timid – Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s public persona belied his stubborn resilience and steadfastness of belief.
It was Liu’s determination and bravery to sacrifice himself for his beliefs that caught the attention of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee when it awarded him the prestigious prize in 2010 “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.
Liu, the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while still living in China, died on Thursday of multiple organ failure after battling liver cancer. He was diagnosed in May, and treated at a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. He was 61. He is survived by his wife Liu Xia, ex-wife Tao Li and son Liu Tao.
Sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” by co-authoring the Charter 08 pro-democracy manifesto, which called for the Communist Party to uphold the commitments made in its own constitution and that of the state, Liu was granted medical parole on June 26 this year.
Zhou Fengsuo, a student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was living in exile in the United States in 2008. He recalls a brief telephone conversation with Liu – which was to be their last – shortly before Liu’s arrest in December of that year, when the dissident was collecting signatures for Charter 08.
“I said to him ‘it’s remarkable that you stick to your ideas even in Beijing’, and he said ‘that’s just something I ought to do’,” Zhou recalled.
“He had the special ability to be a bridge between people with very different views … lots of people who signed the charter were personal friends of Liu. He could connect very different people, and I think that’s what the government hates him most for.”
Liu first spent time behind bars in the wake of the June 4 military crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement in 1989. He organised a hunger strike by four intellectuals in support of the students at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and also negotiated with the student leaders and the military commander to allow students to leave the square in peace on the morning of June 4 as People’s Liberation Army soldiers and tanks moved in. His efforts might have saved many students’ lives, but he was arrested on June 5 and spent 19 months in Qincheng Prison for his role in the movement.
Liu Suli, a former professor at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law who was jailed in the same prison after the crackdown, said Liu Xiaobo had played a major role in disarming the protesters, persuading the students to hand in all their weapons, including guns, clubs and bricks.
Liu Suli, a former professor at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law who was jailed in the same prison after the crackdown, said Liu Xiaobo had played a major role in disarming the protesters, persuading the students to hand in all their weapons, including guns, clubs and bricks. Read more…