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Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017)

14 July 2017

A major part of the capstone for my Teachers for Global Education project was a unit project for a campaign to free oppressed writers. For a sample, I created a Voicethread on China’s only Nobel Peace Prize winner, imprisoned dissident and literary critic, Liu Xiaobo.

Liu died Wednesday from liver cancer, having been denied travel to the United States for treatment. See reports from BBC, CNN, Fox News, and India’s First PostUSA Today report that the last regime to hold a Nobel Peace Prize winner in custody until death was Nazi Germany, which imprisoned Carl von Ossietzky.

The Chinese government has gone into classic the-beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves modelodging protests with any country for statements about Liu’s death, accusing the West of victimizing Liu for its own purposessingling out especially Taiwan’s “reckless” comments that contribute to a string of “repeated arbitrary attacks:” The comment in question? President Tsai Ing-Wen’s statement, “Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important country.”

China has also been working its censors double-time, continuing to prevent mainlanders from finding any information about the death of a man they don’t know anything about, going as far as censoring “RIP” and the candle emoji from social media posts.

The United States response has been ambiguous and unfocused. President Trump, at a press conference in Paris, in response to a Chinese reporter’s question described Chinese President Xi Jinping as “a terrific guy” rather than speak about Liu. The White House shortly afterward issued a statement that President Trump was “deeply saddened” by Liu’s death, and U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on China to release his wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest.

In Hong Kong, where the grip of Chinese state power is not as firm (although four pro-democracy lawmakers were removed today for showboating during their oaths of allegiance to China), memorials have been left at the door of government offices. and a column has been posted about Charter 08, the pro-democracy manifesto for which Liu was imprisoned, in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s English-language newspaper.

Dissidents’ and human rights advocates’ concerns now turn to Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since her husband’s imprisonment. The New York Times reports that Liu Xiaobo’s last writings were handwritten notes to and for his wife.

More reports here, here. Also, a great column by John Timpane of the Philadelphia Inquirer about governments’ desire to control journalism around the world is here,


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