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China’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has been imprisoned by authorities since 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power.” (At the Nobel awards ceremony, he was represented by an empty chair.) His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since his prison sentence began, in spite of not being charged with a crime.
Mr. Liu has recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and refused permission to leave China to seek treatment. My understanding is that the Chinese authorities will allow him to have acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicines but say it is too late for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy treatments.
Mr. Liu was teaching at Barnard College in 1989 when the Tiananmen Square protests began, and quickly returned to China to participate. The authorities arrested him and imprisoned him for two years for “counter-revolutionary propaganda.” Offered asylum by the Australians, he refused in order to continue to live in China, even though he was barred from writing or speaking publicly. During these years, he published many articles on website outside China. He has called the Internet “God’s gift to China.”
In 2008, Mr. Liu founded the Charter 08 movement, which sought to elevate the rule of law and bring China into constitutional government: “China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government.” On December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 100 years after China’s first constitution was written, Liu released a petition signed by 303 incredibly brave Chinese people in support of the Charter. This was the final straw for the government, which arrested him immediately, and he has been imprisoned since.
It is not clear whether Terry Branstad, the American ambassador to China, or President Trump have spoken to the Chinese explicitly in Mr. Liu’s behalf. The Chinese government-run Global Times released a scathing editorial castigating foreigners concerned about Mr. Liu, saying, “Those arguing for Liu to be treated better do not really care about him. . . Stories maliciously fabricated to make trouble for China will not cure Liu or erode China’s legal order. They are only ephemeral bubbles floating overseas. Just let them go.”
A video from an Australian journalist was filmed before his arrest, and gave me the idea for the title of this post.
The text of Charter 08 can be found here.