“Liu Xiaobo – analytic calm, activist diligence”

Mr. Liu is still being held incommunicado by the government somewhere in northeastern China, but a book of his translated essays and poems coming out next year prompted this post by Perry Link on Democracy Digest:

We might expect such steadiness in a recluse—a hermit poet, a cloistered scholar—but in Liu Xiaobo it comes in an activist. Time and again he has gone where he thinks he should go, and has done what he thinks he should do, as if havoc and the possibility of prison were simply not part of the picture.

Fortunately for his readers, he writes utterly free from fear. Most Chinese writers today, including the best ones, write with political caution in the backs of their minds and under a shadow that looms as they pass their fingers over keyboards. What topics should I not touch? What indirection should I use? Liu Xiaobo does none of this. What he thinks, you get.

Liu sees the roots of China’s problems today in its political system, not in its people. He insists that there is no individual person, including any who prosecuted or imprisoned him, is his personal enemy. His ultimate goal is regime change—done peacefully. On this point China’s rulers, who charge him with subverting their power, actually see him correctly. They are also correct in seeing that his ideas would be broadly popular inside China if they were allowed to circulate freely, and that, of course, is why they are so eager to block them. Liu writes that change in China will be slow, but he is optimistic that unrelenting pressure from below—from farmers, petitioners, rights advocates, and, perhaps most important, hundreds of millions of Internet users—eventually will carry the day.

Chinese people have always shown special reverence for Nobel Prizes, in any field, and this fact has made Liu Xiaobo’s Peace Prize especially hard for the regime to swallow. When China’s rulers put on a mask of imperturbability as they denounce Liu’s prize, they are not only trying to deceive the world but, at a deeper level, are lying to themselves. When they seek to counter Liu’s Nobel Prize by inventing a Confucius Peace Prize, and then give it to Vladimir Putin citing his “iron fist” in Chechnya, there is a sense in which we should not blame them for their clownish appearances, because these spring from an inner panic that they themselves cannot control

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