Liu Xiaobo's Dreams Will Never Die
The Nobel laureate may have passed away, but his vision of a democratic China lives on.
Jared Genser, 07/13/17
The world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, died of liver cancer on Thursday at the No. 1 Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang. Despite a global outcry supporting his dying wish to travel abroad for medical treatment, including by 154 Nobel laureates, the Chinese government stood firm and willfully hastened his death by denying him access to treatments abroad that could have extended his life by several weeks. As his lawyer, I had arranged for a Medevac to take him abroad the moment Chinese President Xi Jinping might relent, but in the end Xi showed no humanity and no mercy.
Liu died totally cut off from everyone but his wife Liu Xia, and was not allowed to receive visits or calls from friends or other family. And as a further affront to his dignity, he wasn't even allowed to be alone with his wife – a Chinese security official was in the room with them around the clock and even when he died.
The last time the world heard from Liu was in a statement released by his counsel on Dec. 25, 2009, right after he was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for "inciting subversion of state power." Liu said, "I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer."
China is indisputably a great power, with a population of 1.4 billion people, a GDP of $11.2 trillion, the second largest economy in the world behind the United States, and annual military expenditures of $140 billion. It is therefore stunning that Xi was so afraid of this one man and his ideas. Ironically, by its relentless persecution and silencing of Liu, China has made him a martyr for its democracy movement and ensured that his ideas will endure long beyond his passing today. Liu's soul is now free from his body, and even the powerful Chinese government cannot continue to persecute him.
Originally from northeast China's Jilin Province, Liu was a 61-year old former literature professor. He began an academic career at the Beijing Normal University as a lecturer and subsequently earned a doctoral degree before joining the faculty. A popular professor, he was invited to be a visiting scholar in Europe and the United States. In 1989, he left his position as visiting scholar at Columbia University to return to the growing protests in Tiananmen Square.
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