In this Nobel Peace Laureates Series, we have a short documentary on Liu Xiaobo’s struggles for fundamental human rights in contemporary China. Liu Xiaobo was a prominent and influential leader in the 1989 student revolt and protests in Beijing Tiananmen square, demonstrations that were directed “against political abuses of power and corruption” in the Communist party of China.
The Communist government in response accused the protesters and demonstrators of planning conspiracies against the state. The protest’s leadership, Liu Xiaobo and two other leaders, subsequently formed hunger strikes and drafted a political manifesto “We have no enemies“. The manifesto advocated the use of non-violence for the democratization of China.
At the conclusion of the protests, Liu Xiaobo successfully negotiated a peaceful withdrawal of the student demonstrators before the Chinese military began advancing on Tiananmen square. Many of those that remained were killed. Liu Xiaobo was, shortly after, arrested and served a 20 month prison term, accused of “[committing] counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement to disturb public order”.
In 2008, Liu Xiaobo co-wrote Charter 08 — a document advocating targeted political reforms in China. Charter 08 proposes amongst other ends the termination of single party rule in China along with a division of powers, independent legal system, freedom of association, legislative democracy, guarantee of human rights, and so forth. Liu Xiaobo was immediately detained and eventually arrested a year later in 2009, and sentenced 11 years imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power”. While in trial, he wrote “Charter 08: My Final Statement”.
In 2010 Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in incarceration and became that same year the first person since Nazi Germany’s Carl von Ossietzky (1935) to have been denied not only to come to Oslo but also of a representative to collect his Prize. Still today it remains unclaimed.
An online petition to President Hu Jintao to free Liu Xiaobo, organized by Pen America Center, has been created and is available here.