Liu Xiaobo– A Warrior for Human Freedom


July 15, 2017for

Liu Xiaobo– A Warrior for Human Freedom

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

“…we owe it to ourselves and our fellows to progressively throw off the chains we are born with, or into, or otherwise shackled with, and seize our freedom to be, and do the best we possibly can”.–Dean Johns

Like so many famous rhetorical flourishes that come to be regarded as self-evident truths, French philosopher, and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ringing declaration that “man is born free, and is everywhere in chains” is, on careful consideration, ridiculous.

Tribute to Madiba and Liu Xiaobo

In fact, the reality is entirely the opposite. We are all born in chains – chains of genetic inheritance, of infantile ignorance and impotence, and of the familial, physical, cultural, political and other environmental circumstances in which we find ourselves – and can either submit to being constrained by such chains or struggle against them to try and set ourselves as free as possible.

And this state of affairs seems to me to be nowhere more evident than in China, or what I prefer to think of as “Chaina”, on the grounds that its people have been enchained throughout history by an endless series of dismal dictatorships.

Mostly imperial dictatorships, of course, but currently one led by a Communist Party as dictatorial as any emperor could possibly be, and so deceptive as to try and pass itself off as the “People’s’ Republic of China” into the bargain.

When the people protest, however, it quickly reverts to the “Party’s Republic of Chaina”, as it did on the occasion of the notorious massacre of protesting students and workers in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and again following the publication of Charter 08 on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Liu Xiaobo, a hero of Tiananmen Square who had subsequently sought and found sanctuary in the US before courageously returning to China/“Chaina” to co-author Charter 08, was sentenced in 2009 by the regime to 11 years’ imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power”.

And today, as I write this, it has been reported that Liu has died under guard in a hospital of cancer after being refused permission to seek treatment overseas for his illness.

Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, in honoured memory of Liu Xiaobo and in support of his fellow activists against the Communist Party overlords of the “Anti-People’s Republic of Chaina”, is the first paragraph of Charter 08, followed by a list of its demands of the regime:

“This year is the 100th year of China’s Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognising that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance.

“A “modernisation” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity.

“Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a “modernisation” under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognise universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilisation, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided:

1. Amending the Constitution
2. Separation of powers
3. Legislative democracy
4. An independent judiciary
5. Public control of public servants
6. Guarantee of human rights
7. Election of public officials
8. Abolition of Hukou system
9. Freedom of association
10. Freedom of assembly
11. Freedom of expression
12. Freedom of religion
13. Civic education
14. Free markets and protection of private property, including privatizing state enterprises and land
15. Financial and tax reform
16. Social security
17. Protection of the environment
18. A federated republic
19. Truth in reconciliation

Of course, China is by no means alone in the world in urgently needing many, if not all, of these reforms for the sake of good government and honest governance on behalf of its citizens. Malaysia, for example, enchained as it has been for almost 60 years by its corrupt, illegitimate, and otherwise criminal UMNO-BN regime, has a crying need for items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 19.

And a great many other nations, from Russia, Pakistan, and all the other “-stans”, to a great many more similarly freedom-impaired countries in Asia, Africa and South America could do with many, if not most of them.

My own country, Australia, could perform much better, in my opinion, on points 6, 11, 13 and 15. And of course the United States, as the self-proclaimed world leader in government of the people, by the people, for the people, could well do itself and the rest of the free world a favour by electing a president capable of thinking coherently and telling or at least tweeting the truth.

But to end on a personal level, it is worth making the point that we are, all of us, part of the problem and thus capable of making ourselves part of the solution.

In other words, whether Chinese or whatever other nationality or ethnicity, we happen to be, we are all chainees of various false “faiths”, “beliefs”, “customs”, “prejudices”, and other mental bonds and restrictions that prevent us living up to our full human potential.

And thus we owe it to ourselves and our fellows to progressively throw off the chains we are born with, or into, or otherwise shackled with, and seize our freedom to be, and do the best we possibly can.

The Passing of China’s Iconic Human Rights Campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate–LIU Xiabo dies


July 14, 2017

The Passing of China’s Iconic Human Rights Campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate–LIU Xiabo

Peace prize winner and democracy activist dies of liver cancer, after spending almost a quarter of his life behind bars in China

by  Tom Phillips

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/13/liu-xiaobo-nobel-laureate-chinese-political-prisoner-dies-61

Liu Xiaobo, who has died aged 61, was imprisoned in 2009 on charges of subversion for calling for democracy in China.
Liu Xiaobo, who has died aged 61, was imprisoned in 2009 on charges of subversion for calling for democracy in China. Photograph: Liu Xia/EPA

China is facing a barrage of international criticism for its treatment of the Nobel laureate and democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo, who died at the age of 61 on Thursday.

Liu, who championed non-violent resistance as a way of overcoming “forceful tyranny”, had been serving an 11-year jail sentence for demanding an end to one-party rule when he was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May.

He died of multiple organ failure while under guard at a hospital in north-east China, making him the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, the 1935 recipient, who died under surveillance after years confined to Nazi concentration camps.

 

News of Liu’s death sparked an immediate outpouring of international mourning and condemnation. His peaceful activism and biting criticism of one-party rule meant he had spent almost a quarter of his life behind bars.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, paid tribute to “a courageous fighter for civil rights and freedom of opinion”. The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said he mourned the loss of a man who had dedicated “his life to the betterment of his country and humankind, and to the pursuit of justice and liberty”.

The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the prize, said the Chinese government – which had stopped Liu traveling abroad for treatment despite appeals from world leaders – bore “a heavy responsibility for his premature death”.

“We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen.

The British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said he was deeply saddened by the “huge loss” of the “lifelong campaigner for democracy, human rights and peace” and attacked Beijing for denying Liu and his family the chance to seek medical treatment overseas.

“Liu Xiaobo should have been allowed to choose his own medical treatment overseas, which the Chinese authorities repeatedly denied him. This was wrong and I now urge them to lift all restrictions on his widow, Liu Xia.”

One of the most forceful attacks on the authoritarian regime of China’s President, Xi Jinping, came from his Taiwanese counterpart, Tsai Ing-wen, who paid tribute to a “human rights warrior”. Tsai said Liu had striven to transform China into a nation where human rights and the rule of law were respected. “This was Liu Xiaobo’s Chinese dream,” Tsai said, alluding to Xi’s central propaganda slogan.

“We hope that the Chinese authorities can show confidence in engaging in political reform so that the Chinese people can enjoy the God-given rights of freedom and democracy … Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important country.”

Liu Xiaobo was famed for his Gandhian “no enemies” philosophy – but there was rage as well as grief among his friends as news of his death spread.

Liu Xiaobo and his wife, the poet Liu Xia, in 2002. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“I hate this government,” said the author and activist Tienchi Martin-Liao, breaking down in tears as she learned of her friend’s death. “It is not only sadness – it is fury. How can a regime treat a person like Liu Xiaobo like this?

“This is unbearable. This will go down in history. No one should forget what this government and the Xi Jinping administration has done. It is unforgivable.”

The writer and activist Mo Zhixu, said he felt “bitter hatred”. “It is so cruel and inhuman.”

Hu Ping, a friend of almost three decades who edits a pro-democracy journal called the Beijing Spring, said: “Liu Xiaobo is immortal, no matter whether he is alive or dead. Liu Xiaobo is a man of greatness, a saint.”

Hu said his friend’s plight highlighted the bleak realities facing activists living under Xi, who has presided over what observers call the most severe political chill since the days following the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

“I think the situation in China now is deteriorating – and the way in which Liu has been treated clearly shows us what the current situation is, and how it goes beyond our imagination.”

Born in the northern province of Jilin in 1955, Liu was part of the first generation of Chinese students to go to university after they reopened following the upheaval of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. He studied Chinese literature and went on to become a revered writer and public intellectual.

When pro-democracy protests broke out in Beijing in the spring of 1989, Liu was lecturing in New York but decided to return despite having previously shown little interest in politics.

“He thought: ‘This is where I should be and this is where I can make a contribution. So I am going there’,” said Perry Link, a Chinese literature expert from the University of California, Riverside, who knew him.

Liu flew back to Beijing and headed to Tiananmen Square, where he played a central role in the protests. He led a hunger strike shortly before the 4 June military crackdown in which hundreds, possibly thousands of lives were lost. He was jailed for almost two years for his role in what Beijing called “counter-revolutionary” riots. The experience served as a political awakening that transformed Liu into a lifelong activist and champion of democracy.

 

Liu Xiaobo, second from right, in June 1989, with demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.
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Liu Xiaobo, second from right, talking to reporters with fellow demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Beijing on 3 June 1989. Photograph: Str Old/Reuters

Over the coming years Liu continued to speak out, despite two more stints behind bars, railing incessantly against China’s authoritarian regime in essays and interviews.

The “crime” that led to Liu spending his final years behind bars was Charter 08, a 2008 declaration inspired by Charter 77, a manifesto published by Czechoslovakian dissidents in 1977. “The current system has become backward to the point that change cannot be avoided,” it warned, calling for an end to one-party rule.

Authorities did not approve. Hours before it was due to be published, Liu, who had been one of the document’s drafters, was detained at his Beijing home. The following year he was handed an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.

“The charter was the first public document since 1949 to dare to mention the end of one-party rule,” said Link. “But of course the problem with having an influence is that the crackdown has been effective. A lot of young people don’t know about the charter and don’t know about Liu Xiaobo now.”

In 2010, Liu was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. He was represented at the award ceremony by an empty chair. When he was informed of his victory he reportedly said: “I dedicate this prize to the lost souls of 4 June,” in reference to the victims of the Tiananmen massacre.

Human rights and democracy campaigners saw Liu’s Nobel prize as a triumph for their cause. But for his wife, the poet and artist Liu Xia, with whom he had fallen in love during the 1990s, it was a catastrophe. She was immediately placed under house arrest and has spent recent years living in almost total isolation, under constant surveillance.

“She is a wonderful woman. A really wonderful woman,” says Jean-Philippe Béja, a French academic and longstanding friend. “I don’t even dare to imagine how she feels now.”

Eva Pils, an expert in Chinese law and human rights from King’s College London, said Liu Xiaobo would be remembered for his “wise and forceful” style of political resistance. Supporters had been counting the days until his expected release from prison in 2019. “Now this is extremely disappointing,” she said. “Naturally, I, like many others, had been counting down to the time of his release. It’s so unfair.”

Link said Liu would be remembered as “a stubborn truth-teller” and someone who opened “the possibility of a different kind of China”.

“That is a lasting legacy. The model of how an independent intellectual stands up to the state will be admired if it is not completely obliterated.”

Béja said Liu’s ideas would continue to inspire, long after his death. “It’s always very hard to evaluate the impact of a thinker or of an actor but I am sure that – despite all the efforts by the party – he won’t be forgotten.”

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

Image result for Liu Xiaobo and wife

‘Your Lifelong Prisoner’ – Liu Xiaobo’s poem from prison

A book of poems published in 2012 by Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident released from prison on Monday, contained a moving tribute to his wife, the poet Liu Xia

To Xia

My dear,

I’ll never give up the struggle for freedom from the oppressors’ jail, but I’ll be your willing prisoner for life.

I’m your lifelong prisoner, my love
I want to live in your dark insides
surviving on the dregs in your blood

I hear your constant heartbeat
drop by drop, like melted snow from a mountain stream
if I were a stubborn, million-year rock
you’d bore right through me
drop by drop

day and night

Inside you
I grope in the dark
and use the wine you’ve drunk
to write poems looking for you
I plead like a deaf man begging for sound
Let the dance of love intoxicate your body

I always feel
your lungs rise and fall when you smoke
in an amazing rhythm
you exhale my toxins
I inhale fresh air to nourish my soul

I’m your lifelong prisoner, my love
like a baby loath to be born
clinging to your warm uterus
you provide all my oxygen
all my serenity

A baby prisoner
in the depths of your being
unafraid of alcohol and nicotine
the poisons of your loneliness
I need your poisons
need them too much

Maybe as your prisoner
I’ll never see the light of day
but I believe
darkness is my destiny
inside you
all is well

The glitter of the outside world
scares me
exhausts me
I focus on
your darkness –
simple and impenetrable

Reprinted by permission of Harvard University Press from No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems by Xiaobo Liu. Copyright © 2012 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.