Thursday 13 July 2017

Liu Xiaobo: A man with no enemies

Liu Xiaobo was a man with no enemies. The 'crime' he was jailed for was co-writing and circulating a charter asking for the things that most people in developed countries regard as the bare minimums of a civilised society: a free press, free elections, an independent judiciary. Yet today he is dead, having died of an illness that he might have had every chance of avoiding or overcoming had he not been jailed by a brutal regime that feared what he had to say.

In coming days you will hear some of the usual people saying some of the usual things that apologists for the Chinese Communist Party say about its critics - that Liu Xiaobo was a foreign agent, that had he not associated with "evil foreign forces" he would be free today. This is nonsense. Others who have had no contact at all with foreign human rights organisations have been jailed by the CCP authorities for the same 'crime' of 'subversion', where their 'crime' consisted only of speaking their minds in a public forum.  Guo Quan, a former Nanjing University professor of history, who also campaigned for democracy, was jailed for the same 'crime' of 'subversion' for 10 years, with no-one ever accusing him of foreign links.

Those with suspicious minds might suspect that foul play, or at least malicious neglect, were factors in Liu's death. This suspicion can only be heightened by the unconfirmed report that Bo Xilai has also recently been released for treatment for the same disease (liver cancer) that killed Liu. Without evidence such speculation is pointless conspiracy-theory-making. The independent post-mortem that might clear-up such speculation will never happen, even if Liu's family want it to be done which is uncertain.

Still, I find it hard not to feel angry about this. I am not the man who said this:
 "Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love."

Liu Xiaobo must never be forgotten, his wife Liu Xia should be freed from the restrictions she was placed under now. Keeping these things in mind is the best way of honouring Liu Xiaobo's memory.


Ji Xiang said...

The "usual people" are also going to be fishing out that old quote about how China would have to be colonized for 300 years to reach Hong Kong's level of civility.

A few days ago I explained to an apolitical and rather naive Chinese friend who Liu Xiaobo is. She had never heard of him. She then looked him up on Baidu, and the first result was an article which purported to explain who he was. The headline was "the man who wanted China to be colonized for 300 years". It then contained lots of other quotes condemning him as a traitor who hates his own people.

justrecently said...

You'll hear the usual folks (I have the strong feeling that this one is Hu Xijin himself, the chief editor at the "Global Times") say that Liu Xiabo is a victim of the West. Pretty similar to what KCNA had to say about Otto Warmbier ("a victim of Obama's strategic-patience policy").

justrecently said...

Liver cancer is a comparatively frequent disease in China, often started by some type of hepathitis. I don't think there was a scheme behind Liu's illness, but lousy food and living conditions, the stresses of being separated from your people and the things with meaning in your life, and staff that may be intimidated, stupid, or your enemy, can make a big difference into the wrong direction.

Gilman Grundy said...

@JR - Yes, I also thought of the Warmbier case when it was announced that Liu Xiaobo had cancer. The feeling is the same - there is no evidence that the people who wrongly imprisoned the person concerned were responsible, but the circumstances are those that will never not give rise to suspicion.

The Hu Xijin piece is awful, but somehow I found this piece, written by one of People's Daily's foreign stooges, even worse:

Even more awful is the silence of Liu Xiaobo's fellow Nobel laureates, especially Barrack Obama. George W. Bush, as much as we may regret many things about his presidency, has at least issued a statement condemning the CCP government's treatment of Liu, which can be read here:

justrecently said...

Talking about silence, do you remember who discussed human rights issues with Xi Jinping in October 15, and who didn't?

Gilman Grundy said...

We'll see if JC ever "raises human rights" (and what does this mean exactly?) with Xi Jinping if he becomes prime minister. Cameron did meet the Dalai Lama before he switched to the whole "Golden Era of Relations" nonsense.

Meanwhile complete silence from May, Merkel at least said something about this.

justrecently said...

Foarp, I know that you aren't a Corbyn fan - but you can be pretty sure that he will be true to some basic principles, and there seems to be a chance that he can prove that in office.

Cameron switched to that "Golden Era" because he judged every situation by business opportunities and power. He met with the Dalai Lama as long as he found the "cost" of it acceptable.

Merkel still says something about human rights because she's in a position to do so. The Chinese side is very interested in technology transfer, innovation, etc.. As soon as Germany doesn't have much to offer anymore (i. e. in case of successful transfer), Merkel (or her successors) will find the cost of speaking out unacceptable, too.

It's pretty much the CCP's logic (which is "communist" only by name). If Corbyn will be a great prime minister remains to be seen. But I think your dislike of him is blinding you for his qualities.

Talking about qualities: G. W. Bush is probably a decent man - but he was the president who did a lot to weaken America, both its image, and its hard power. Obama did a lot to rebuild it - something that matters in international relations, too. But he was no model of a democratic politician. Snowdens revelations alone - and the way he has fared since - should make that clear enough.

And North Korea might have been easier to handle, if Bush jr hadn't invaded Iraq. If I were the leader of a regime, I'd acquire nukes as fast as I could. That's the lesson they have learned from the past decades. I think the record of conservative politicians has been too bad to keep condemning the political alternatives.

Neither capitalism and democracy, nor dicatorship and capitalism are inseparable. But both democracy and dictatorship can get married with capitalism. Capitalism chooses the wealthier bride, no matter how ugly she may be.

Anonymous said...

"China Change" published a translation of what is said to be an open letter from Wu Gan. Summary:

"In light of all the above, I would like to call upon the public and the international community to understand the true plight of Chinese dissidents in custody. There are so many others who, for all manner of reasons, cannot openly expose what they have experienced. Of course, my speaking the truth today may meet with retaliation, and I might be given a heavy prison sentence. But in the end, someone has to stand up. I’m using my true, personal experiences to tell everyone the cruel truth behind the facade: if there is no liberty, democracy, and rule of law in China, the tragedy of Liu Xiaobo won’t be the last, and the Communist Party’s violence will not stop. The long-term torture I was subjected to has gradually begun to seriously harm my body — and the abuse hasn’t stopped. For instance, the two hours of fresh air I’m supposed to have a right to every day is not at all guaranteed. The food we’re given is worse than pig slop. And there’s far more I could say."