Liu Xiaobo’s Memorial Service Held in the U.S.
Has the U.S. Indicated Its Intention to Confront the Chinese Communist Party's National Congress?

Washington National Cathedral where a memorial service for Liu Xiaobo was held

Key points in this article

  • The memorial service for Liu Xiaobo did not have a tragic atmosphere, but gave people hope.
  • The U.S. lawmakers who attended the service criticized China’s human rights suppression.
  • The international community still takes a soft stand toward China. They should convey Liu’s passion to bring democracy to China.

At the 19th Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress that was held recently in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a leadership lineup that shows his power will be further strengthened. As Xi displayed his strong leadership both at home and abroad, a memorial service commemorating the life and work of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was held in Washington National Cathedral on October 19th.

While he was alive, Liu was found guilty of criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s one-party domination. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in jail for his activities to advocate human rights, but died on July 13th this year. Following his death, the Chinese government intensified its media censorship and internet surveillance out of fear that the movement to mourn his death would spread throughout the country. The Chinese authorities immediately deleted Liu’s name and images from the internet, and prevented people from searching for the initials of Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, including even the image of a burning candle that could be associated with mourning.

Prior to the National Congress, the Chinese government beefed up security in Beijing. During the congress, Chinese citizens and human-rights activists were detained and put under house arrest by the authorities. Some were forced to stay in suburban areas with police officials under the guise of a “compulsory vacation.”

On October 16th, Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy quoted Liu’s relative as saying that his wife, Liu Xia, was also taken on “a trip” by the authorities.


The Memorial Service Did Not Make People Feel Sad, but Hopeful

The Liberty’s overseas reporter took part in the memorial service for Liu because the Chinese government has been cautious about the democratic movement in the country.

Washington National Cathedral, which has the largest cathedral in the world, was built in line with George Washington’s idea of creating “a cathedral that welcomes people of all faith.” It is also a venerable cathedral that has hosted State Funerals of former presidents like Eisenhower and Reagan.

The memorial service started in the huge chapel with the sublime sound of a pipe organ, followed by the Dean’s address and prayer, and then bishops performed the solemn ceremony. Li Xiaorong, a lawyer who drafted the pro-democracy manifesto “Chapter 8” with Liu, and Yang Jianli, the founder of Washington-based human rights group “Citizen Power for China,” read out passages from Liu’s writings.

Christopher Smith, U.S. Republican congressman and co-chairman of the Congressional Executive Committee on China, and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also sent video messages in which they read out passages from Liu’s writings. Nancy Pelosi is one of the lawmakers who sponsored a bill to rename a section of the street that runs in front of the Chinese Embassy “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.”

Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chairperson of the Nobel Prize Selection Committee, appeared on the platform and praised Liu’s achievements in his human rights activities. She said she felt sorry that the committee could not meet Liu, comparing him to Carl von Ossietzky who won the Nobel Peace Prize while in a Nazi prison camp.

Ms. Andersen and Mr. Juan Mendez, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, read out an excerpt from Liu’s well-known messages, “I have no enemies, and no hatred.” There was also a video message from the 14th Dalai Lama in which he expressed his admiration for Liu’s struggle to bring democracy to China.

The memorial service ended after the prayers of bishops and the solemn performance of a pipe organ. The service was performed with solemnity, but it did not have a somber and tragic atmosphere. Instead, it provided an occasion where people who attended the service shared with each other the hope of “a revolution for freedom begins here”.


The U.S. Lawmakers Intensify Their Criticism of China’s Human Rights Oppression

Senator Ted Cruz gave his comments to the Liberty’s reporter

Senator Ted Cruz, who introduced the bill to rename the street “Liu Xiaobo Plaza”, was among the attendees at the service.

After the service, the Liberty’s reporter had an opportunity to make brief conversation with Mr. Cruz. He severely criticized the Chinese government for human-rights suppression, such as imprisoning and torturing its citizens, emphasizing that renaming the street after Liu Xiaobo will send a message to China and the world, and that if the spirit of Liu echoes throughout the world, we will be able to overcome human rights issues.

Senator Cruz once introduced similar legislation along with Senator Marco Rubio, and the Senate and House approved the bill in 2016. However, then President Obama was cautious about the measure and was expected to veto the bill, so Cruz and other lawmakers were unable to get the bill passed into law.


The Strengthening of Human Rights Oppression in China and the Weak-kneed Attitude of the International Community

Hundreds of people gathered at the service from all over the world, most of whom were Chinese immigrants with U.S. nationality and Americans who were enthusiastic about addressing human rights issues.

An ethnic minority student from China told the Liberty’s reporter, “If I attended the service and the Chinese authorities found out, it is highly likely that I would be arrested when I return to the country. So I am too scared to participate.”

Obviously, Chinese President Xi Jinping has intensified crackdown on civil rights attorneys and human rights activists, and media censorship and religious persecution has become even fiercer. American experts on China do not dispute the human rights situation in China.

The Chinese authorities have tightened their online censorship after passing an internet security law in 2016. The law allows the authorities to make chat group administrators responsible for messages containing criticism of the government. There is even a case in which those who formed a small-scale grass-roots organization were arrested.

Governments around the world have officially stepped up their criticism of human rights suppression in China, but it should be stated that they are slow to react when it comes to taking specific measures. At the G20 Summit held in Germany in July this year, the leaders did not bring up the subject of Liu, which demonstrates the international community has a weak-kneed attitude toward China.

In order to help the 1.3 billion Chinese people who are suffering from oppression by the authoritarian state regain freedom, and in order to protect the liberty of democratic nations from materialistic and totalitarian states, we must never stop conveying the enthusiastic message of Liu who tried to realize democracy at the price of his own life.

Liu Xiaobo’s Memorial Service Held in the U.S.
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