Tag Archives: Liu Xiaobo

October 8, 2010 (a Friday)

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people.

— Liu Xiaobo, “The [Communist Party of China’s] Dictatorial Patriotism” (2005)

[China] provides large quantities of economic assistance to dictatorships such as North Korea, Cuba, and Myanmar, offsetting to some degree the impact of Western economic sanctions and enabling these remaining despotic regimes on their last legs to linger on.

— Liu Xiaobo, “The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democratization” (2006)

Zen stones

The prominent dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, one of the first signers of Charter 08.

Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), 54, the prominent independent intellectual and long-time democracy advocate, was awarded the Nobel peace prize on 8 October 2010, for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” The first resident citizen of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to win a Nobel prize, Liu becomes only the second person to win the peace prize while incarcerated, following German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who won it in 1935 while jailed by the Nazis. In its press release, the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted:

. . . [T]here is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.

Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world’s second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.

China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Liu Xiaobo.

Liu is one of the leaders of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), a group of writers that promotes freedom of expression. The ICPC is among 145 member centers of the International PEN, a human rights organization and international literary organization founded in 1921. Liu’s writing is banned in China but his books are sold in Hong Kong. “Awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize is an affirmation of the central importance to everyone of freedom of expression, of which he is a courageous exponent,” states PEN International President, John Ralston Saul. “Charter 08 contains this phrase: We must stop the practice of viewing words as crimes,” says Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International‘s Writers in Prison Committee. “Liu is serving 11 years for that simple credo, and his belief in democracy for the Chinese people. We fervently hope that Liu’s winning of the Nobel Prize furthers those causes.”

“Liu Xiaobo is a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, we hope it will keep the spotlight on the struggle for fundamental freedoms and concrete protection of human rights that Liu and many other activists in China are dedicated to,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International USA‘s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific region. “This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails for exercising their right to freedom of expression”, said Baber.

Harry Wu, former Chinese political prisoner and founder of Laogai Research Foundation, said of the decision, “the Nobel Committee has sent a clear message to China that it will not be intimidated by its economic and political might.” He added, “for decades, Liu Xiaobo has advocated for freedom. It’s time that the Chinese government releases him from prison and listens to his suggestions.”

“This award comes at a critical historical crossroads in China and constitutes a powerful affirmation for the voices calling for change,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “As Liu Xiaobo and other Chinese advocates for change have pointed out, the only sustainable road ahead for China is one towards greater openness and political reform. This has most recently even been publicly stated by senior Chinese officials [Ed.: See transcript of interview with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on 28 September 2010].”

I agree. Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations in China:

  • An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial.
  • Millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances.
  • Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise.
  • Censorship of the Internet and other media has grown.
  • Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians, and of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches continues.
  • While the recent reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of death penalty cases may result in lower numbers of executions, China remains the leading executioner in the world.

Furthermore, the totalitarian nature of China’s government makes it nearly impossible to effect change in the notoriously oppressive government of North Korea (DPRK), essentially a puppet state of China. Human rights in China is a prerequisite to human rights in North Korea.

Not surprisingly, China’s foreign ministry last week warned that Liu was not suited for the Nobel Peace Prize as he was “sentenced to jail by Chinese judicial authorities for violating Chinese law.” The Chinese government told reporters the committee had violated its own principles by giving the award to a “criminal.” Of course, the Chinese don’t get it: Liu is a political prisoner, not a criminal. In the run-up to the decision, China warned Norway that selecting Liu would affect mutual ties and dispatched a Foreign Ministry official to Oslo to press its case. The two countries are in the process of negotiating a free-trade deal, and Norway’s oil industry — a crucial sector of its economy — wants to boost its business dealings in China. In a sign that it was unwilling to be cowed, however, Norway’s government chose to publicize the Beijing official’s ostensibly private visit.



Liu was born on 28 December 1955 in Changchun, Jilin Province. He received a BA in literature from Jilin University, and an MA and PhD from Beijing Normal University, where he also taught.

In April 1989, he left his position as a visiting scholar at Columbia University to return to Beijing to participate in the 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement. On 2 June, Liu, along with Hou Dejian, Zhou Duo, and Gao Xin, went on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square to protest martial law and appeal for peaceful negotiations between the students and the government. In the early morning of 4 June 1989, the four attempted to persuade the students to leave Tiananmen Square. After the crackdown, Liu was held in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison until January 1991, when he was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” but exempted from punishment.

In 1996, he was sentenced to three years of Reeducation-Through-Labor on charges of “rumor-mongering and slander” and “disturbing social order” after drafting the “Anti-Corruption Proposals” and letters appealing for official reassessment of the June Fourth crackdown.

“There was never a question for him of abandoning the struggle, although he was very critical about the [1989 student] movement,” said Jean-Philippe Béja, of the Paris-based Centre for International Studies and Research, who first met Liu in the early 90s.

“He is a person who wants to live in truth.”

Zen stones

TAKE ACTION HERE: Demand that China release Nobel Peace Prize activist Liu Xiaobo!

AND HERE: Demand that China release Nobel Peace Prize activist Liu Xiaobo!

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June 2, 1989 (a Friday)

Tiananmen Square - June 2, 1989

In the early afternoon on this date, close to a thousand students rode bicycles to the office of Beijing Dailyand burned copies of that day’s edition in a protest of the newspaper’s “degenerative” report on the movement.

Later, Liu Xiaobo led Gao Xin, Zhou Dou, and Hou Dejian into the Square and announced their own hunger strike. They would become known as the “Four Gentlemen.” Liu Xiaobo read their manifesto criticizing both the government and the students’ erratic behavior during the Democracy Movement and vowed to steer the movement into a more sensible direction. In this document, which Liu drafted himself, he declared for the first time his famous slogan, “We have no enemies,” which he insisted to this day.

Four Gentlemen Hunger Strike Manifesto
June 2, 1989

We start our hunger strike! We protest! We call upon people! We repent!

We are not looking for death. We are searching for true life.

Under the tremendous pressure of irrational militant violence by the Li Peng regime, Chinese intellectuals must end their all-words-but-no-action tradition of osteomalacia. We must protest the military rule with our actions. We must call for the birth of a brand new political culture with our actions. We must repent the mistakes we made from our long-time weakness. Each of us bears a part of the responsibility for the backwardness of our Chinese nation.

1. The Purpose of Hunger Strike

The current democratic movement, unprecedented in China’s history, has always used legal, non-violent, and rational means to appeal for liberty, democracy, and human rights. However, the Li Peng regime went so far as to mobilize a military force of hundreds of thousands to suppress the unarmed students and people of all walks. Therefore, we start our hunger strike, not for petition, but for protesting the martial law and military rule! We advocate the pushing for progress in China’s democratization with peaceful means and we are against any form of violence. However, we are not afraid of violence. We want to use peaceful means to demonstrate the toughness of our civil and demoractic force, to demolish the undemocratic order supported by bayonets and lies! This ultra-foolish act of using martial law and military rule against students and masses in peaceful petition establishes a precedence of the very worst kind, put the Communist Party, the government, and the military in shame, and destroys the fruit of a decade of reform and openness in a single day!

The thousdands of years history of China is filled with hatred and violent clashes. Even in the modern era, the sense of enermy is a heritage for Chinese people. After 1949, the slogan of “Class Struggle as the Guideline” pushed the tranditional senses of hatred, enemy, and violence even more to the extreme. This military rule is also a result of the “class struggle”-style political culture. Because of this, we start our hunger strike, to call on Chinese people to gradually abandon and eliminate the senses of enemy and hatred, absolutely abolish the “class struggle”-style political culture — because hatred could only produce violence and tyrancy. We must begin China’s democratic reconstruction with a democractic sense of tolerance and cooperation. The democratic politics is a politics without enemy and hatred, but only consultation, discussion, and voting based on mutual respect, mutual tolerance, and multure compromises. As the Premier, Li Peng has made serious mistakes and should resign according to democratic procedures. But Li Peng is not our enemy. Even after he steps down, he should continue to enjoy his rights as a citizen, including the rights to uphold his incorrect opinions. We call upon the government and every ordinary citizen to abandon the old political culture and start a new political culture. We demand the government to end the military rule immediately. And we call upon students and the government to once again negotiate peacefully and to resolve their conflicts with consulation and dialogue.

This student movement has received unprecedented sympathy, understanding, and support from all walks of the society. The implementation of the military rule has turned the student movement into a democratic movement participated by all people. But there is no denying that many people support students only out of humanitarian compassion and resentment to the government and lack a true sense of citizenship out of political responsibilities. Therefore, we call upon the whole society to gradually abandon the spectator and mere sympathy attitudes and build up a true sense of citizenship. First and foremost, citizenship is a sense of political equality. Every citizen must have the self-confidence that his own political rights is equal to that of the Premier. Secondly, citizenship is not only justice and sympathy, but also a rational urge of participation. This is also the sense of political responsibility. Every person does not just sympathize and support but participate directly in the democratic reconstruction. Finally, citizenship is the consciousness of taking responsibilities and obligations. The existence of rational and legal social politics is to everyone’s credit. The existence of irrational and illegal social politics is to everyone’s fault. Consciously participating in social politics and consciously taking on responsibilities is every citizen’s loyal obligation. Chinese people must understand: in democraticized politics, everybody must be a citizen first, and then be a student, professor, worker, cadre, soldier, etc..

For thousands years, the Chinese society went through vicious cycles of overthrowing an old emperor and establishing a new one. History has shown that the stepping down by one leader who had lost people’s heart and the rise of another leader beloved by the poeple cannot solve the true problems in Chinese politics. What we need is not a perfect savior but a complete democratic system. Therefore, I call for the following: First, the society should form legal, independent organizations by various means, gradually establish a grass-root political force to balance the government power. Because the essence of democracy is balance, we would rather have ten devils balancing each other than a single angle with absolute power. Second, gradually establish a thorough procedure for impeachment by impeaching leaders who made serious mistakes. It is not important as of who to step up or down, it is important in how they step up or down. An undemocractic appointing and firing procedure can only lead to dictatorship.

In this movement, the government and students have all made mistakes. The mistakes by the government are mainly for standing on the opposite side of the vast student and resident mass and escalating the conflicts, guided by the old “class struggle” political mindset. Students’ mistakes are mainly in the shortcomings of their own organizations. They showed many non-democratic elements during their efforts in petitioning for democracy. Therefore, we call upon both government and students sides to reflect calmly. It is our opinion that, as a whole, the main mistakes in this movement are on the government’s side. The actions of demonstrations and hunger strike are ways for people to express their opinions. They are absolutely rational and legal, and not turmoil. But the government ignored the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution and adopted a tyranical political mindset to characterize this movement as turmiol. This led to a series of incorrect policies and again and again pushed the movement to new heights, made the conflict more and more dramatic. Therefore, the real culprit of creating turmoil is government’s errenous policies, whose seriousness is not any less than that during the Culture Revolution. It is only due to the restraints of students and residents, including the many strong voices by enlightened individuals in the Party, government, and military, that we are spared of any large-scale bloodshed. Because of this, the government must admit and reflect on these mistakes. We believe that it is still not too late for corrections. The government should learn a hearty lesson from this large-scale democratic movement, acquire a new habit of listening to people’s voices, get used to people expressing their opinions with the rights guanranteed by the Constitution, and learn to govern the nation democratically. This wide-range democratic movement is teaching the government how to manage society with democracy and rule of law. The mistakes on the students’ side are mainly in the chaos in their internal organizations, the lack of effenciency and democratic procedure. For instance, their goals are democracy but their means and procedures are undemocratic; their theory is democratic but their handling of real issues are undemocratic; they lack the spirit of cooperation, their powers cancel each other and led to confusion in decision-making; their finance is a mess and waste is rampant; they have abundance of emotion but not enough of reasoning; they possess too much sense of priviledge but lacks equality, etc. etc.. In the most recent hundred years, the struggle to achieve democracy by the Chinese people has mostly limited at the level of ideology and slogans. It only concerns with the idea of enlightening but not the actual implementations, only the goal but not the means, processes and procedures. We believe that the true realization of a democratic politics is the democratization of the actual process, means, and procedures. Therefore, we call upon Chinese people to abandon the traditional empty democray of ideology and slogans and to begin the actual implementation, to transfer the democratic movement centered in enlightenment to a democractic movement of actual implementations, acting from every detailed piece of issues. We call upon the students to start their own reflections by focusing on establishing the order within Tiananmen Square.

The big mistakes the government made are also represented in their use of the term “a small clique”. With our hunger strike, we want to tell all the media home and abroad that the socalled “a small clique” means such a group of people: they are not students but they are willingly participating in this students-led democratic movement as citizens with strong senses of political responsibility. Everything we do is legal and rational. They want to use their intelligence and action to help the government repent in the areas of political culture, personal character, and ethical power, openly acknowledge and correct its mistakes; to help the students refine their independent organizations with democratic and legal procedures. We must admit that it is an unfamiliar concept to every Chinese citizen to govern the nation democratically. All Chinese citizens must learn from the scratch, that includes the top leaders in the Party and the government. In this process, mistakes by the government and the people are unavoidable. The key is to acknowledge the mistakes, correct the mistakes, and turn these mistakes into positive treature so we can learn how to govern our nation democratically through the process of correcting mistakes.

2. Our Slogans

We have no enemies! Don’t let hatred and violence poison our intellegence and China’s democratization process!

We need to reflect! It’s everyone’s responsility for China’s falling behind!

We are citizens first!

We are not looking for death! We are seeking the true life!

3. Hunger Strike Location, Time, and Rules

Location: Under the Monument of People’s Heros at Tiananmen Square
Time: 72 hours, 6/2 4pm to 6/5 4pm
Special Note: Since Hou Dejian has to travel to Hong Kong for recording in 6 days, his hunger strike will be 48 hours, 6/2 4pm to 6/4 4pm
Rules: Only consume plain water, any beverage containing nutritious ingredients (super, starch, fat, protein) is not allowed

4. Hunger Strikers
Liu Xiaobo: Doctor in Literature, Lecturer at Beijing Normal University
Zhou Dou: formerly lecturer at Peking University, Stone Corp.
Hou Dejian: Known song writer
Gao Xin: editor-in-chief of Beijing Normal University Weekly, member of Chinese Communist Party

June 2, 1989 - A woman soldier sings among pro-democracy protesters occupying Tiananmen Square. Police officers and troops would occasionally mix with protesters in an effort to keep the demonstration peaceful.

[The above is a translation. The original in Chinese can be viewed here.]

There were clear signs that tension between the students occupying the Tiananmen Square and the government was gradually building on June 2, 1989. More soldiers were seen around the area, either marching or jogging in formation, or just wandering about. Some of them were detained by students as spies but were eventually released.