Category Archives: Liu Xiaobo

“Writer Mo Yan in Delicate Nobel Dance With Chinese Authorities”

A new take on Mo Yan and the Nobel prize by Josh Chin of China Realtime Report:

A day after winning the Nobel Prize for literature, Chinese novelist Mo Yan said he hoped China’s other Nobel winner, jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, can “achieve his freedom” soon.

The writer’s willingness to speak publicly about Mr. Liu flies in the face of criticisms leveled by some other writers and human rights activists in China that the novelist, once celebrated for his sly subversiveness, had recently grown too close to the authorities. It also means Chinese authorities will likely need to step carefully in trying to exploit the soft power potential of the writer’s award, human rights advocates say.

“Mo Yan certainly has a mind of his own. He’s not a government puppet. His novels make very clear that he’s not a cheerleader for the state of Chinese society today,” said Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. The novelist’s willingness to talk about Mr. Liu, he added, “will make it a little more difficult for China to conceal that they’re holding a Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison.”

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who on Thursday slammed Mo Yan as unworthy of the prize, did an about-face upon hearing the writer had expressed sympathy for Mr. Liu. “I want to welcome Mo Yan back into the arms of the people,” he said. “If this sort of courage is the result, I hope more Chinese writers will be given Nobel prizes.”

“It does put the government in a bind because it doesn’t look good, but I don’t think that it’s likely to affect the government’s position on Liu Xiaobo at this time,” Mr. Bequelin said, adding: “From the government’s perspective it’s a small price to pay compared to the benefit of being able to say China has a Nobel literature prize winner.”

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“China ‘steals wife’s freedom’ to pressurise Liu Xiaobo”

It’s hard to find new things to write about Liu Xiaobo, who is still imprisoned and essentially cut off from the world- but the BBC has put one together with the latest:

A source close to the family has told us that Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China as that would lead to his voice being marginalised.

But the source said that Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia is “suffering mentally” because she has now spent two years under illegal house arrest and continues to be detained.

China’s authorities allow only three people to visit Liu Xiaobo in Jinzhou prison where he’s being held: his two brothers who can see him about once every six months, and his wife who sees the Nobel Peace Prize winner every two to three months, the source said.

They have to ask for permission in advance and wait for notification.

“They are not allowed to go and visit him together. Only one person is allowed each time. And the police watch them during the entire meeting,” our source told us.

His wife, Liu Xia, meanwhile, has not committed any crime in China but is being held in her home.

“There are two policewomen living with her in her apartment. And lots of plain-clothes police watching the compound constantly,” our source told us.

“Liu Xia’s health is not very well. Mentally she suffers a lot because of the loss of personal freedom and the worries about her jailed husband.”

“She is allowed to go out and visit her mother and meet one of her best friends roughly once a month, escorted by policewomen the entire time. Other than visits to her husband, that’s it.

“She is not allowed to go anywhere else, not even to the park or shop. And no-one is allowed to even approach her compound, let alone visit her.”

The individual added: “What the government is doing to Liu Xia is illegal. They do this routinely to dissidents in order to prevent them speaking to the press and tainting the government’s image.

“Her husband is currently the most famous dissident in China, so she suffers tighter control than other dissidents.”

“To the extent that this reflects an official strategy to counter Liu Xiaobo’s influence, it would have to be deemed successful. There’s only so much interest that can be sustained by a person’s continued absence.

“That’s why you don’t see too many headlines proclaiming ‘no news of Nobel laureate again this month’.”

And the friend of the family who spoke to the BBC says that, by being so harsh on his wife, China is trying to pressure Liu Xiaobo into cutting a deal to go into exile.

“The government is trying to force Liu Xiaobo to leave China by taking his wife’s personal freedom away. At the same time, the government threatens both their families, saying if they try to speak to the media or leak any information their right to visit Liu Xiaobo will be taken away.

“This is very cruel. It has forced the family to keep quiet.”

But, the family friend added, Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China, despite the fact that his prison term lasts until 2020.

“The government has always wanted Liu Xiaobo to leave China because the fact that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is in jail, is a constant reminder of China’s poor human rights situation.”

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“Will China Dragon Bite in 2012?”

Phelim Kine has a new piece in The Diplomat looking at how this year might play out for Chinese dissidents:

Strike hard and take prisoners. That’s the Chinese government’s message on how it will respond to perceived dissent in this Dragon year of 2012.

Just ask the writers Chen Xi, Chen Wei, and Li Tie. Chen Wei received a nine year prison term on December 23 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for online government criticism. Three days later, a Guiyang court handed down a 10-year sentence on the same charge to Chen Xi, for similar online criticism of China’s one-party rule. Then, on January 18 of this year, a Wuhan court sentenced Li Tie to a 10 year prison term for “subversion of state power” for writings that included reference to the officially taboo topic of the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

But while repression is nothing new in China, the government’s intolerance toward perceived dissent has grown since the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Its victims include imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion” over his role in drafting Charter ’08, an online petition advocating peaceful political change in China. His wife, Liu Xia, who hasn’t been charged with any crime, is believed to be under house arrest to prevent her from campaigning on her husband’s behalf. In February 2011, she said in a brief online exchange that she and her family were like “hostages” and that she felt “miserable.”

The government’s overriding obsession with maintaining its monopoly on power make it likely that these abuses will continue under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Foreign governments could help reverse this trend and give support to Chinese who want a more accountable government by more vigorously engaging the government on such violations.

In the longer term, governments truly committed to improving their approach to human rights abuses in China can’t rely on rhetoric alone. Instead, foreign governments, particularly the United States, the E.U. and the U.K., need to make progress on individual human rights cases a real benchmark for engagement with China and make clear that lack of progress will impact bilateral relations. Failure to do so will only ensure that in 2012 and beyond, yet more Chinese citizens will fall victim to their government’s dissent-stifling tactics of fear and intimidation.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, activism, enforced disappearance, human rights, Liu Xiaobo

“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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On Having Reasonable Opponents

“If China overnight adopted a democratic system, I might have some reservations… If central authority collapsed, there could be a chaotic situation, and that’s in no one’s interest.”

One of the keys to understanding why the Chinese government gets so worked up about certain people is this: they aren’t really afraid of people who come out swinging at China. What really unsettles them is when their opponents offer a hand instead of a fist.

The above quote is from the Dalai Lama, who has been in Washington for the last week giving religious teachings. Most of his activities there have fallen short of newsworthy, until that quote (captured in American hack columnist Fred Hiatt’s WaPo piece) caught my eye. It’s the perfect illustration of why Beijing goes to such lengths to call him a jackal in monk’s robes: because he’s actually being very reasonable.

Think about Liu Xiaobo for a second. Charter 08 landed him in prison, despite the fact that the bulk of it merely called for what, on paper, Chinese citizens already have. Pretty reasonable document. The Dalai Lama has regularly been giving the Chinese government proposals for how to solve the Tibet problem, and they’re full of easy, uncontroversial stuff, like “protect the Tibetan language” and “allow Tibetans to practice their religion.” They’re available online in English, Chinese, and Tibetan, and it would all be enforceable by China, so there’s no chance of Tibet seceding from China. In other words: extremely reasonable proposals.

So why do they do it? Why do they keep Liu Xiaobo locked up, despite all the flak they get for it? Why constantly insult the Dalai Lama, certainly one of the most popular people in the world?

The reason is that the Chinese government knows both people are being very reasonable, and that this means they could very easily connect with a third party: the Chinese public. If the Dalai Lama was actually some kind of cackling anti-Chinese psychopath they wouldn’t need to paint him as one, because there wouldn’t be any risk of Chinese citizens coming to agree with him. If Liu Xiaobo really wanted to topple the Chinese government and replace it with a foreign-dominated failed state… well, that isn’t really an idea you can sell to many people here.

On the other hand, if you were allowed to walk the streets here and tell people that they should enjoy the rights and liberties that are their birthright as Chinese citizens, or that Tibetans should be allowed to use Tibetan as the dominant language in their autonomous regions and prefectures, plenty of people would agree with you. Sure, some people might not fully agree with all of it, but neither of these men’s ideas are sufficient on their own to necessitate Two Minutes’ Hate.

So the propaganda outlets and government ministries here will continue to attack anyone with a reasonable idea- not because their ideas are abhorrent to the Chinese people, but because they aren’t. The day when any Chinese citizen can pick up and read a copy of Charter 08 or the actual words of the Dalai Lama is the day they realize that neither men are villains, and that they might agree with far more of their points than they would have thought.

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“Nobel Prize winner’s family denied visits”

In the long months since winning the Nobel Prize, Liu Xiaobo has fallen off of the media’s radar.  There haven’t been any major developments, because he’s in prison and everyone close to him has been under heavy surveillance and/or house arrest.  South China Morning Post reports on exactly how far the government has gone to hide him:

Jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo – accused of being a “black hand” in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement 22 years ago – has not been allowed to see his family for nearly eight months, raising concerns that he is being denied his basic rights in retaliation for winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

His wife, Liu Xia , last visited him in prison in Liaoning on October 10 – two days after the announcement that he had won the Nobel prize. She has been under house arrest since, with her mobile phone disconnected and visitors barred from seeing her.

She appears to have been cut off from the internet after her last Twitter message on October 18.

Liu Xiaobo’s two brothers have not been allowed to visit him since August, they said.

“I fear it is not possible to see him,” said Liu Xiaoxuan . “We have not been able to see him after the award.”

This is the kind of story that, like the Aung San Suu Kyi detention in Burma, won’t ever fully disappear- every time it comes up, it’ll be an embarrassment to Beijing.  The easiest thing would have been to not arrest him, and after that the easiest thing would have been to just kick him out of the country after he won the prize…  but instead they set themselves up for stories like this, every few months, for the rest of time.

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