United Daily News: Liu Xiaobo: eternal scar on China's conscience

2017/07/15 15:38:33
CNA file photo

CNA file photo

For Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), the biggest regret was not his inability to go to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, but the fact that democracy in China was still far, far away while he was imprisoned for nearly a decade.

For China, his death of liver cancer while on medical parole may not have been as embarrassing as Beijing blocking his trip to Oslo for the award, and may have even come as something of a relief.

But if Liu was a thorn in the eyes of Chinese authorities, then the thorn has become a permanent scar on China's conscience. His unfinished pursuit will long be etched in people's memories.

If China had released him from prison earlier or granted him medical parole when his illness was first discovered, it would have greatly improved China's image on human rights. But the rigid Chinese authorities ended up turning him into "a martyr" in the eyes of the people.

In 2008, Liu took part in the drafting of Charter 08, which called for the separation of powers, legislative democracy, an independent judiciary, a guarantee of human rights, freedom of association, assembly, expression and religion, and other democratic reforms.

For his actions, he was arrested and sentenced to 11 years in prison the following year.

His imprisonment drew widespread concern, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Regrettably, the move only angered China more.

During the decade Liu was imprisoned, China experienced fast growth and emerged as an economic giant. Its purchasing power has raised eyebrows internationally, and in many ways China has become more confident because of its affluence.

But in politics, China has not shown any signs of easing up because of that confidence. Its restrictions have become even stricter, and intellectuals' freedom of expression has come under tighter control.

On the eve of his sentencing in 2009, Liu wrote an article titled "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement."

He said "I hope my country will be a land that has freedom of expression" and "I hope I'll be the last victim of constant Chinese persecution against people who write something politically wrong."

His remarks still move us today. The lament of "being the last victim of China's persecution against people writing something politically wrong," is the shared pain of many Chinese, which will not fade away because of Liu's passing.

A Western democratic system may not be the only way for China, but as it becomes stronger and more affluent, can it pledge more freedom to its people instead of worrying about having its authority challenged? Can it gradually move toward democratic reform at a time of social stability so that people can express their voices? Can it show more tolerance so that dissenters can openly speak their minds?

Liu has gone, but these big questions still linger in our mind.

(Editorial abstract -- July 15, 2017)

(Summarized by Lilian Wu)

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