Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波; born 28 December 1955) is a Chinese literary critic, writer, professor, and human rights activist who called for political reforms and the end of communist single-party rule. He was incarcerated as a political prisoner in Jinzhou, Liaoning. On June 26, 2017, he was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.
Liu was born in Changchun, Jilin, in 1955 to an intellectual family. In 1969, during the Down to the Countryside Movement, Liu’s father took him to Horqin Right Front Banner, Inner Mongolia. After he finished middle school in 1974, he was sent to the countryside to work on a farm in Jilin.
In 1977, Liu was admitted to the Department of Chinese Literature at Jilin University, where he created a poetry group known as “The Innocent Hearts” (Chi Zi Xin) with six schoolmates. In 1982, he graduated with BA in literature before being admitted as a research student at the Department of Chinese Literature at Beijing Normal University, where he received an MA in literature in 1984 and started teaching as a lecturer thereafter. That year, he married Tao Li, with whom he had a son named Liu Tao in 1985.
In 1986, Liu started his doctoral study program and published his literary critiques in various magazines. He became well known as a “dark horse” for his radical opinions and sharp comments on the official doctrines and establishments. This shocked 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 became a bestseller non-fiction. It comprehensively criticised the Chinese tradition of Confucianism and posed a frank challenge to Li Zehou, a rising ideological star who had a strong influence on young intellectuals in China at the time.
In June 1988, Liu received a PhD in literature. His doctoral thesis, Aesthetic and Human Freedom, passed the examination unanimously and was published as his second book. In the same year he became a lecturer at the same department. He soon became a visiting scholar at several universities, including Columbia University, the University of Oslo, and the University of Hawaii. He returned home as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests broke out. This year saw also the publication of his third book, The Fog of Metaphysics, a comprehensive review on Western philosophies. Soon, all of his works were banned.
Human rights activities
On 27 April 1989, Liu stayed in Beijing and immediately and actively supported the popular movement. When an army looked set to violently eject the students who persistently occupied the square to challenge the government and army enforcing martial law in Tiananmen Square, he initiated a four-man three-day hunger strike on 2 June. Later referred to as the “Tiananmen Four Gentlemen Hunger Strike”, the action earned the trust of the students. He requested that the government and the students abandon the ideology of class struggle and adopt a new kind of political culture of dialogue and compromise. Although it was too late to prevent the massacre from occurring beyond the square starting from the night of 3 June, he and his colleagues successfully negotiated with the student leaders and the army commander to let all the several thousand students withdraw peacefully from the Square, thus avoiding a possibly much larger scale of bloodshed.
On 5 June, Liu was arrested and detained in Qincheng Prison for his alleged role in the movement, and three months later was expelled from Beijing Normal University. The government’s media issued numerous publications which labeled him a “mad dog” and “black hand” because he had allegedly incited and manipulated the student movement to overthrow the government and socialism. His publications were banned, including his fourth book in press, Going Naked Toward God. In Taiwan however, his first and third books, Criticism of the Choice: Dialogues with Leading Thinker Li Zehou (1989), and the two-volume Mysteries of Thought and Dreams of Mankind (1990) were republished with some additions.
In January 1991, 19 months since his arrest, Liu Xiaobo was convicted for the offense of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” but exempted from criminal punishment for his “major meritorious action” for having avoided the possible bloody confrontation in Tiananmen Square. After his release, he was divorced and eventually his ex-wife and son immigrated to the US. He resumed his writing, mostly on human rights and political issues though he has not been allowed to publish in Mainland China. In 1992, in Taiwan, he published his first book after his imprisonment, The Monologues of a Doomsday’s Survivor, a controversial memoir with his confessions and political criticism on the popular movement in 1989.
In January 1993, Liu was invited to visit Australia and the USA for the interviews in the documentary film Gate of Heavenly Peace. Although many of his friends suggested that he take refuge abroad, Liu returned to China in May 1993 and continued his freelance writing.
On 18 May 1995, the police took Liu into custody for launching a petition campaign on the eve of the sixth anniversary of 4 June 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. He was released in February 1996 but arrested again on 8 October for an October Tenth Declaration, co-authored by him and another prominent dissident Wang Xizhe, mainly on the Taiwan issue that advocated a peaceful reunification in order to oppose the Chinese Communist Party’s forceful threats towards the island. He was ordered to serve three years of re-education through labor “for disturbing public order” for that statement.
In 1996 at the labor camp, Liu married Liu Xia. Because she is the only person from the outside who can visit him in prison, she has been called his “most important link to the outside world.”
After his release on 7 October 1999, Liu Xiaobo resumed his freelance writing. However, it is reported that the government built a sentry station next to his home and his phone calls and internet connections were tapped.
In 2000, Liu published in Taiwan the book A Nation That Lies to Conscience, a 400-paged political criticism. Also published, in Hong Kong, was Selection of Poems, a 450-paged collection of the poems as correspondences between him and his wife during his imprisonment; it was co-authored by Liu and his wife. The last of three books which he published during the year was in Mainland China, titled The Beauty Offers Me Drug: Literary Dialogues between Wang Shuo and Lao Xia, a 250-paged collection of literary critiques co-authored by a popular young writer and by himself under his unknown penname of “Lao Xiao”. In the same year, Liu participated in founding the Independent Chinese PEN Centre 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 held his position of the board member until detained by the police in December 2008.
In 2003, when he started to write a Human Rights Report of China at home, Liu’s computer, letters and documents were confiscated by the government. He once said, “at Liu Xia’s [Liu’s wife] birthday, her best friend brought two bottles of wine to [my home] but was blocked by the police from coming in. I ordered a [birthday] cake and the police also rejected the man who delivered the cake to us. I quarreled with them and the police said, “it is for the sake of your security. It has happened many bomb attacks in these days.”Those measures were loosened until 2007, prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
In January 2005, following the death of former Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, who showed sympathy to protesters of the student demonstration in 1989, Liu was immediately put under house arrest for two weeks before realizing the death of Zhao. In the same year, he published two more books in the US, The Future of Free China Exists in Civil Society, and Single-Blade Poisonous Sword: Criticism of Chinese Nationalism.
Liu’s writing is considered subversive by the Chinese Communist Party, and his name is censored. He has called for multi-party elections, free markets, advocated the values of freedom, supported separation of powers and urged the governments to be accountable for its wrongdoings. When not in prison, he has been the subject of government monitoring and put under house arrest during sensitive times.
Nobel Peace Prize
On 8 October 2010, the Nobel Committee awarded Liu the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” saying that Liu had long been front-runner as the recipient of the prize.
China reacted negatively to the award, immediately censoring news about the announcement of the award in China, though later that day limited news of the award became available. Foreign news broadcasters including CNN and the BBC were immediately blocked, while heavy censorship was applied to personal communications. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the award to Liu Xiaobo, saying that it “runs completely counter to the principle of the award and is also a desecration of the Peace Prize.” The Norwegian ambassador to the People’s Republic of China was summoned by the Foreign Ministry on 8 October 2010 and was presented with an official complaint about the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu. The Chinese government has called Liu Xiaobo a criminal and stated that he does not deserve the prize. Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, in his response to news of the award, criticized Liu by calling him “the accomplice of the Communist regime.”
Following the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, celebrations in China were either stopped or curtailed, and prominent intellectuals and other dissidents were detained, harassed or put under surveillance; Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest and was forbidden to talk to reporters even though no official charges were brought. Sixty-five countries with missions in Norway were all invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony, but fifteen declined, in some cases due to heavy lobbying by China. Besides China, these countries were Russia, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Venezuela, Egypt, Sudan, Cuba, and Morocco.
China also imposed travel restrictions on known dissidents ahead of the ceremony. A Chinese group announced that its answer to the Nobel Peace Prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, would be awarded to former Taiwan Vice-President Lien Chan for the bridge of peace he has been building between Taiwan and Mainland China. Lien Chan himself denied any knowledge of the $15,000 prize.
Edited From Wikipedia