Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reflection on Liu Xiaobo and Nobel Peace Prize

The winning of Nobel peace prize by a jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has put China in the spotlight for the past 2 weeks. For many people in the world, it is shocking to see such contrast of a growing economy and self-claimed "modern" society and a brutally repressive government. For those who are familiar with China and its struggle with democracy for the last 30 years, it is not a surprise. From the tanks and guns on Tian-an men square, to today's jailing of more than 1,000 dissidents merely for their speech and religious belief, the Chinese government is inheriting a long tradition. The brutality is characteristic of a communist government, due to its long advocacy of violence and trampling of individual rights in the name of revolution.

For those of us who came out of China after participating in the memorable 1989 student movement, Liu Xiaobo's award is especially a joyful and tearing moment. None of us can forget the long march to local factories to persuade workers to go on strike. Neither can we forget the blockade we put on the streets and bridge to force government into action. We listened to moving speeches on the street, calling for reform. We protested in front of the provincial government building, demanding dialog. Almost all of the students around the country came out at that time. Many government employees and local citizens joined our march. We were so united and so excited, and we felt a free China is almost palpable. But overnight after June 4th, all of our dreams were crushed. Soldiers and tanks moved onto Beijing streets, student leaders were singled out at all universities for punishment, participating workers were arrested and many were executed. China reverted to a dark age and such darkness continues until today.

Liu Xiaobo became famous in the days leading to June 4th, particularly among us student protesters. He was older than us, as he was already a university faculty and established himself through his writings. When he joined our movement, we felt a jolt of support and was also bewildered by his actions. For us young colleague students, we had nothing to lose at that time. It was a little surprising that someone who is older to join us, someone who risked losing his job and comfortable life to join us. Thus he won our admiration. After the June 4 massacre, Liu Xiaobo was arrested and pronounced a "black hand" behind student protest. He was sentenced to prison. Since then, Liu Xiaobo's name disappeared from public eyes.

More than 10 years passed since Liu Xiaobo's name re-entered my world. I started to read posts on Chinese Pen website (chinesepen.org), a unique website that provides refreshing voice about today's China. Most articles are calm and observant. The authors are mostly inside China and they give us first-hand account of events and problems unfolding in China. Among all the authors, Liu Xiaobo carries the most daring and penetrating writing. I enjoy reading his criticism on China's action before Olympic games, his analysis on communist party's repressive approach, and his bold call for more freedom in China. At the end of each article, there is always his signature: "Liu Xiaobo, from Beijing, China". Whenever I read that signature, I felt a mixture joy and worry. I was happy that he brought us the first-hand account in the heart of China and he spoke his mind inside such a repressive country. But I was also worried that he would incur the government's wrath. Unfortunately, my worry panned out. His outspokenness has finally got on the nerve of the government, and he was put in jail for another 11 years.

I feel deeply grateful for the Nobel committee for bravely picking out Liu Xiaobo and put China's repression under broad daylight. The award to Liu is acknowledgment for all those fighting for democracy inside China. They incur great personal loss. Some even lost their lives. But the world does not forget about them. The world is not silent any more.

For each day that Liu Xiaobo is still in prison, in his small cell to endure the suffering of deprivation, we need to work, to fight and to speak out for freedom. Maybe democracy does not appear in one day, but it will come someday. From now on, Liu Xiaobo has become a symbol, a lightening bolt, and a torch for all of us to carry on. With him, we unite and work for a democratic China where 1.3 billion people will no longer live in fear and repression.

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