Chinese Democracy Activist Liu Xiaobo Dies, But His Passion for Liberty Lives On

Key points in this article:

  • Liu bore no hatred towards the Beijing government
  • The philosophy behind “Charter 08” enraged the Communist Party
  • Liu’s conviction of the existence of the human soul ignited his activism for democracy

Chinese democracy activist, Liu Xiabo, passed away on the 13th. We pray that he may rest in peace.
Liu was engaged in many pro-democracy movement campaigns, including the Tiananmen Square massacre, and was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize during his fourth prison term. When Beijing authorities prohibited his attendance at the awards ceremony, world media erupted in outrage.

In May this year, Liu was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and was transferred to the hospital in late June. Authorities rejected requests by him and his family to receive medical care in Germany or America, and he passed away on 13 July. He was 61.

For the Beijing authorities, keeping Liu retained at the risk of condemnation by the international community for disallowing Liu’s attendance at the Nobel ceremony and overseas medical treatment, was worth it.

What then did Liu do to enrage the Chinese authorities to this extent?


Fighting – Not Through ‘Hatred’ – But Through ‘Forgiveness and Prayer’

China is a country with no true liberty, and many people have fought to attain it. Many of these democracy activists defect to countries that give them greater agency so they can speak out about the terrible conditions in China.

Liu, in contrast, chose to remain in China and tried to change the country from within. No matter how many times he was arrested, placed in solitary confinement, or had his path blocked, he used every opportunity to fulfill his urge: to change China into a country that respects freedom and democracy.

“Let us abandon hatred,” he said to a group of student activists in 1989. “Hatred can poison our minds. We have no enemies.” This same spirit can be seen in Liu’s statement written for his court trial in 2009:

“I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago . . . I have no enemies, and no hatred.”

“I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.”

“Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth. I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.”

This essay, filled with Liu’s passion and love for his fatherland, was read at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony and was well received throughout the world.

Violence can supress violence, but it cannot erase love and conviction. The Beijing authorities were probably vexed by Liu’s unwavering spirit.


Charter 08: The True Values of Liberty

Liu’s final arrest was sparked by his Charter 08 manifesto: a demand for freedom and democracy in China. Authorities claim that it was a plot to overthrow the government, but everything written in the manifesto were ‘common sense things’ for people living in free countries: freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, protection of private property, among others. On the surface, these are all things that the Chinese constitution promises.

The difference is in the underlying philosophy. Charter 08 makes a universal statement on the importance of liberty and human rights:

“Freedom is at the core of universal values . . . If freedom is not flourishing, then there is no modern civilization of which to speak.”
“Human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are rights that each person is born with and enjoys.”


Belief in The Soul: The Root of His Conviction

What was it that gripped Liu to act with such vehemence? It was his belief in things invisible to the eye: a firm belief in the existence of the human soul. While under house arrest, Liu took advantage of his secluded situation.

“Having lost my freedom, my body fell into the darkness,” he said. “But it gave me an opportunity to talk to the spirits [of the dead Tiananmen Square victims] . . . Their bodies – thirsting for freedom – may have died, but their spirits live on in the resistance. Those who have abandoned freedom may still be alive, but their souls are dead from shivering fear.”

Liu thus had a conviction that those who have lost their lives continue, in the spirit, in their pursuit of freedom. In other words, when people lose their desire for freedom, their souls are as a good as dead, but those with spirit, whether in body or not, can continue in their fight for civil rights.

Liu’s life in pursuit of freedom challenges us to question what it is that is most important to the human race. Liu’s body may have died, but his spirit lives on amongst the people, and will become the driving force towards freedom and democracy in China.

Chinese Democracy Activist Liu Xiaobo Dies, But His Passion for Liberty Lives On
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