"Didn't they say that China was in a golden moment of historical peak, and that the state of human rights is at the very best? Didn't they say that the present government wants to treat 'the people as the foundation' in order to build a 'harmonious society'? Then why is the government which has built the golden and almighty China so panicky? " LIU Xiaobo
Dr. LIU Xiaobo (born on 28 December 1955), a renowned Chinese writer and human rights activist based in Beijing, is the Honorary President of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre and served as its President from 2003 to 2007. He had been a lecture at the Department of Chinese Literature, Beijing Normal University before his imprisonment in 1989.
On 8 December 2008, Dr. Liu was taken into custody once more by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau for his role in launching Charter 08, and then held under residential surveillanceat an unknown location in Beijing until he was formally arrested. On 25 December 2009, he was sentenced by the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People's Court to 11 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights on "inciting subversion of state power". On 11 February 2010, his appeal was rejected by the Beijing Municipal High People's Court. Since 26 May 2010, he has been held in Jinzhou Prison.
Early life and work of dark horse
LIU Xiaobo was born in Changchun, Jilin Province, on 28 December 1955. After middle school, he was sent to the countryside for farming until he became a worker at a construction company in Changchun City. In 1977, he was admitted to the Department of Chinese literature at Jilin University, and created with 6 schoolmates a poetry group, The Innocent Hearts (Chi Zi Xin). In 1982, he graduated with B.A. in literature and then admitted as a research student at the Department of Chinese Literature at Beijing Normal University. In 1984, He received M.A. in literature and became a teacher at the same Department. In 1986, started his doctoral study program and published his literary critiques at various magazines. He became well known as a "dark horse" for his radical opinions and sharp comments on the official doctrines and establishments to shock both of the literary and ideological circles, thus termed as Liu Xiaobo Shock or Liu Xiaobo Phenomenon. In 1987, his first book, Criticism of the Choice: Dialogues with Li Zehou, was published and soon became a bestseller non-fiction for his profound capacities in philosophy and aesthetics as a doctorate to comprehensively criticise the Chinese tradition of Confucianism and frankly challenge the Prof. Li Zehou, a rising ideological star with the most influence on young intellectuals in China at the time. In June 1988, he received Ph.D. in literature, the very first under Communist role in China, with his doctoral thesis, Aesthetic and Human Freedom, which passed the examination unanimously and published as his second book making a new shock.
In the same year, he became a lecture at the same Department, and soon went on studying abroad as a visiting scholar at several universities beyond China, including the University of Oslo, the University of Hawaii, and Columbia University in New York City until he returned home for the student movement broke out in Beijing in 1989. This year saw also the publication of his third book, The Fog of Metaphysics, a comprehensive review on Western philosophies, and soon the banning of all of his works.
Human rights activism
"Why in this 'harmonious society' in which 'the people are the foundation' are I and other dissidents treated like trash to be stomped upon? Why must the 'harmonious society' be constructed only with police officers posted at stations?" Liu Xiaobo
On 27 April 1989, Dr. Liu Xiaobo returned home in Bejing and immediately took part in the popular movement to support the student protests. When bloodshed was likely near to happen for the students persistently occupying the Tiananmen (TAM) Square to challenge the government and army enforcing the martial law, he initiated a four-man 3-day hunger strike on 2 June, later referred as Tiananmen Four Gentelmen Hunger Strike, to earn the trust from the students, and published a joint statement, June 2 Hunger Strike Declaration. He called on both the government and the students to abandon the ideology of class struggle and to adopt a new kind of political culture for dialogue and compromise. Although it was too late to prevent the massacre from occurring beyond the TAM Square starting from the night of 3 June, he and his colleagues succeeded to negotiate with both of the student leaders and the army commander to let the several thousand students withdraw peacefully and completely from the Square, thus avoiding a possible bloodshed in much larger scale. On 6 June, Dr. Liu was arrested for his alleged role in the movement, and 3 months later expelled from his university. The governmental media issued numerous publications to condemn him as a “mad dog” and “black hand” to have incited and manipulated the student movement to overthrow the government and socialist. All of his publications were banned, including his fourth book in press, Going Naked Toward God. In Taiwan However, his first and third books were republished with some additions as Criticism of the Choice: Dialogues with Leading Thinker LI Zehou (1989), and Mysteries of Thought and Dreams of Mankind (2 volumes, 1990).
In January 1993, Dr. Liu was invited to visit Australia and USA for the interviews in a documentary film, Gate of Heavenly Peace. Although many of his friends suggested him to take refuge abroad, he returned China in May of the same year and continued his freelance writing.
On 18 May 1995, the police took Dr. Liu into custody for launching a petition campaign on the eve of the sixth anniversary of June 4th massacre, calling on the government to reassess the event and to initiate political reform. He was held under residential surveillance in the suburbs of Beijing for 9 months. After his release in February, he married Liu Xia, but on 8 October 1996, he was arrested again for an October Tenth Declaration, co-authored by him and another prominent dissident Wang Xizhe, mainly on Taiwan issue that advocated the peaceful unification to oppose Chinese Communist Party's forceful treats toward the island. He was ordered to serve three years of reeducation-through-labour on "disturbing public order” for that statement.
After his release on 7 October 1999, Dr. Liu Xiaobo resumed his freelance writing again. In 2000, he published 3 different books in three different Chinese territories, in Taiwan A Nation That Lies to Conscience, a 400-paged political criticism; in Hong Kong Selection of Poems by Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, a 450-paged collection of the poems as correspondences between him and his wife during his imprisonment; and in Mainland The Beauty Offers Me Drug: Literary Dialogues between Wang Shuo and Lao Xia, a 250-paged collection of literary critiques co-authored a popular young writer and by him under his unknown penname of Lao Xiao. In the same year, Dr. Liu participated in founding the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) and was elected to its Board of Directors as well as its President in November 2003, re-elected two years later. In 2007, he did not seek for the re-election of the president but hold his position of the board member until detained by the police. In 2005, he published in USA two more books, Future of Free China Exists in Civil Society, and Single-Blade Poisonous Sword: Criticism of Chinese Nationalism.
Dr. Liu's human rights work has received international recognition. In 2004, Reporters Without Borders awarded him the Foundation de France Prize as a defender of press freedom. He received the Hong Kong's Annual Human Rights Press Awards for his articles published there in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Dr. Liu Xiaobo participated in drafting and signed, along with more than three hundred Chinese citizens, Charter 08, a manifesto released on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 2008), written in the style of the Czechoslovak Charter 77 calling for greater freedom of expression, human rights, rule of law and constitutional democracy. The Charter has collected over 10,000 signatures from Chinese of various walks of life.
From the beginning of his career, Liu Xiaobo has been an advocate for freedom of expression, never afraid to challenge the powerful forces shaping intellectual life in China. His first book, Critique on Choices: Dialogues with Li Zehou (1987), was a direct challenge to the philosophical and aesthetic ideas of an influential Chinese academic. His second book was the published version of his doctoral thesis, Aesthetic and Human Freedom (1988). His third book, the title translated as Myths of Metaphysics or The Fog of Metaphysics (1989), was a review of Western philosophies, and the last publication he was allowed in China.
Arrest and detention
At about 11:00 p.m. on 8 December 2008, police from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau arrived at Liu Xiaobo’s home in Beijing, showed him a search warrant and a decision on interrogation through forced appearance, took him away almost at once, and then searched his home in presence of his wife Liu Xia, confiscating three computers and other materials. Since then, he had been held incommunicado without charge at an unknown location in Beijing until he was formally arrested on 23 June 2009.
On 15 December 2008, Liu's wife Liu Xia and her attorney Mo Shaoping approached the police for Liu’s whereabouts and the reasons to hold him, but they were only told that the decision to hold him had been ordered from the top, but denied of any other information.
On 1 January 2009, the police orally notified Liu Xia that Liu Xiaobo had been held under "residential surveillance", but did not show her any written notice nor told her of any reason and his whereabouts, while she was arranged to meet her husband at a so-called "middle place".
On 20 March 2009, when they were allowed to meet for the second time, Liu Xiaobo told Lia Xia that he had been held in solitary confinement in a small windowless room of a few square meters, worse than the general conditions in a detention center or prison.
On 24 June 2009, Liu Xia received a formal notice that Liu was formally arrested for "suspicion of inciting subversion of state power" and so transferred to No. 1 Detention Center of Beijing City on June 23.
In August, September and November, 2009, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau extended thrice the time limit with the approval of the Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate to hold Liu Xiaobo for the reason that its investigation could not concluded within the previous time limit.
On 1 December 2009, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau officially completed the investigation of the case against Liu Xiaobo, transferred the case files to the Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate, and submitted the "Prosecution Recommendations" on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power", alleging that "Liu Xiaobo together with others drafted "Charter 08", clamoring to overthrow the socialist system, as a major crime". However, Liu's lawyer did not until 9 December receive the "Prosecution Recommendations" with 20 files of relevant evidentiary documents, more than 100 pages each.
On 10 December 2009, the First Branch of Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate filed the public Indictment to the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People's Court in the Criminal Indictment No. 247 (2009) of Beijing First Branch Procuratorate that charged the defendant Liu Xiaobo on "offence of inciting subversion of state power".
On 23 December 2009, the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People's Court started the trial to hear the case of Liu Xiaobo on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power", presided over by the Judge Jia lianchun. The First Branch of Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate assigned Prosecutor Zhang Rongge and Deputy Prosecutor Pan Xuechu to sustain the prosecution while the defendant Liu Xiaobo and his defense counsels Ding Xikui and Shang Baojun came to the trial and participated in the process. About 20 persons were allowed to attend the hearing, including Liu's brother and brother-in-law, but his wife Liu Xia was denied being present as she had been forced as a prosecution witness. Many people arrived outside the court and requested to attend it, including a dozen of the diplomats from the embassies of United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand Sweden (then EU presidency), United Kingdom, Germany and other European countries and many overseas journalists in Beijing. The hearing last more than two hours. Liu Xiaobo and his counsels made defence of not guilty plea (read his counsels' defense statement), but Liu was only allowed to speak for 15 minutes. He had prepared two drafts, "My Self-defense" and "I have No Enemies: My Last Statement" but was interrupted by the presiding judge not to read them over due to the time limit.
On 25 December 2009, the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People's Court finalized its trial by reading its Verdict: "1，The defendant Liu Xiaobo is guilty for the crime of inciting subversion of state power, and sentenced to eleven years imprisonment and two years deprivation of political rights. (The sentence is counted from the day of executing the sentence, setting off against the sentence in detention on a day for day basis, that is, serving from June 23, 2009 to June 21, 2020.) 2，All of the materials handed in this case that Liu Xiaobo used to commit the crime shall be confiscated.” (quoted from the unofficial translation of the Verdict). A few day later, Dr. Liu decided to appeal against the verdict.
On 28 January 2010, Liu Xiaobo's counsels summitted the Defense Appeal Statement that concluded: "Liu Xiaobo is innocent, and any verdict that finds Liu Xiaobo guilty cannot withstand the trial of history!"
On 11 February 2010, the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court opened its trial to read its Final Ruling: "dismissing Liu Xiaobo’s appeal and upholding the conviction."
On 26 May 2010, Dr. Liu Xiaobo was transferred from No. 1 Detention Center of Beijing City to Jinzhou Prison, Liaoning Province, to serve his sentence.
His wife Liu Xia is also a poet, and it is through poetry they met and fell in love. When he was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2009, she wrote (in “The Poet in an Unknown Prison,” translated by Liao Tienchi, New York Review of Books, May 2009) of the hundreds of poems written by the two of them “born of the conversations between our souls” and said of her husband, “In my eyes, he has always been and will always be an awkward and diligent poet.” The section of his last statement addressed to his wife is a love poem in prose:
“I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.”
one letter is enough
for me to transcend and face
you to speak
as the wind blows past
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each
word is the last word
the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone
two sets of iron rails
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow
8. 1. 2000
Longing to Escape
for my wife
abandon the imagined martyrs
I long to lie at your feet, besides
being tied to death this is
my one duty
when the heart’s mirror-
clear, an enduring happiness
your toes will not break
a cat closes in behind
you, I want to shoo him away
as he turns his head, extends
a sharp claw toward me
deep within his blue eyes
there seems to be a prison
if I blindly step out
of with even the slightest
step I’d turn into a fish
8. 12. 1999
A Small Rat in Prison
for Little Xia
a small rat passes through the iron bars
paces back and forth on the window ledge
the peeling walls are watching him
the blood-filled mosquitoes are watching him
he even draws the moon from the sky, silver
shadow casts down
beauty, as if in flight
a very gentryman the rat tonight
doesn’t eat nor drink nor grind his teeth
as he stares with his sly bright eyes
strolling in the moonlight
5. 26. 1999
over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit
what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end
daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away
6. 30. 1997 from “Experiencing Death”
with the procession of martyrs
using just the one thin bone
to uphold a true conviction
And yet, the heavenly void
will not plate the sacrificed in gold
A pack of wolves well-fed full of corpses
celebrate in the warm noon air
a flood with joy
I’ve exiled my life to
this place without sun
to flee the era of Christ’s birth
I cannot face the blinding vision on the cross
From a wisp of smoke to a little heap of ash
I’ve drained the drink of the martyrs, sense spring’s
about to break into the brocade-brilliance of myriad flowers
I’m biking home
I stop at a cigarette stand
A car follows me, crashes over my bicycle
some enormous brutes seize me
I’m handcuffed eyes covered mouth gagged
thrown into a prison van heading nowhere
to a flash of awareness: I’m still alive
On Central Television News
my name’s changed to “arrested black hand”
though those nameless white bones of the dead
still stand in the forgetting
I lift up high up the self-invented lie
tell everyone how I’ve experienced death
so that “black hand” becomes a hero’s medal of honor
death’s a mysterious unknown
being alive, there’s no way to experience death
and once dead
cannot experience death again
yet I’m still
hovering within death
a hovering in drowning
Countless nights behind iron-barred windows
and the graves beneath starlight
have exposed my nightmares
I own nothing