The life of a Nobel Peace Prize winner

Liu Xiaobo, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, was born in December 1955, is a Chinese literary critic, professor, and human rights activist who called for democratic reforms and the end of one-party rule in China.He is currently serving as a political prisoner in China.

He has served as President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center since 2003.

On 8 December 2008, Liu was detained in response to his participation with Charter 08. He was formally arrested on 23 June 2009, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power and sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights on 25 December 2009.[5]

During his 4th prison term, he was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

From 1969 to 1973, he was taken by his father to the Horqin Right Front Banner of Inner Mongolia during the Down to the Countryside Movement. At the age of 19, it was once again arranged for him to work in a village in Jilin province and later at a construction company. He is married to Liu Xia, who lives in the couple’s apartment in Beijing.

In 1976, he studied at Jilin University and obtained a B.A. degree in literature in 1982 and an M.A. degree in 1984 from Beijing Normal University. After graduation, Liu joined the faculty at Beijing Normal University, where he also received a Ph.D. degree in 1988.

In the 1980s, his most important essays, Critique on Choices – Dialogue with Li Zehou and Aesthetics and Human Freedom earned him fame in the academic field. The first essay criticised the philosophy of a prominent Chinese thinker, Li Zehou.

Between 1988 and 1989, he was a visiting scholar at several universities outside of China, including Columbia University, the University of Oslo and the University of Hawaii.

In a 1988 interview with Hong Kong’s Liberation Monthly (now known as Open Magazine), Liu was asked what it would take for China to realize a true historical transformation. He replied in this way: “(It would take) 300 years of colonialism. In 100 years of colonialism, Hong Kong has changed to what we see today. With China being so big, of course it would take 300 years of colonialism for it to be able to transform into how Hong Kong is today. I have my doubts as to whether 300 years would be enough.” Liu admitted in 2006 that the response was extemporaneous, although he did not intend to take it back. The quote was nonetheless used against him. He has commented, “Even today [in 2006], patriotic ‘angry youth’ still frequently use these words to paint me with ‘treason.”

During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests he was in the United States but decided to go back to China to join the movement. He was later named as one of the “Four junzis of Tiananmen Square” for persuading students to leave the square saving hundreds of lives.

Human rights activities

Liu Xiaobo is a human rights activist who is little-known inside China. His writing is considered subversive by the Communist Party, and his name is censored He has called for democratic elections, advocated values of freedom, supported separation of powers and urged the governments to be accountable for its wrongdoings.From 1989 until now, he has been sentenced to prison and labor education camp four times for his peaceful political activities, beginning with his participation in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. When he was not in prison, he was also constantly the subject of government monitoring and being put under house arrest in sensitive time.

In June 1989 right after the Tiananmen Square protest, Liu Xiaobo was detained in the maximum security Qincheng Prison, and convicted on charges of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement”. In October 1996, he was ordered to serve three years of re-education through labor on charges of “disturbing public order” for criticizing the Communist Party of China

When he was released in 1999, it is reported that the government built a sentry station next to his home and his phone calls and internet connections were tapped. 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 2004 when he started to write a Human Right Report of China at home, his computer, letters and documents were confiscated by the government. He once said, “at Liu Xia (Liu’s wife)’s birthday, her best friend brought two bottles of wines to (my home) but was blocked by the police to come. 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, when the Olympic Games were going to be held in China.

Liu’s human rights work has received international recognition. In 2004, Reporters Without Borders honored Liu’s human rights work, awarding him the Fondation de France Prize as a defender of press freedom.

In 2007, Liu was briefly detained and questioned about articles he wrote which were published online on websites hosted outside Mainland China.

Liu Xiaobo actively participated in the writing of Charter 08. Then, along with more than three hundred Chinese citizens, he signed Charter 08, a manifesto released on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 2008), written in the style of the Czechoslovak Charter 77 calling for greater freedom of expression, human rights, and for free elections. inSeptember 2010, the Charter has collected over 10,000 signatures from Chinese of various walks of life.


Late in the evening of 8 December 2008, two days before the official release of the Charter, Liu Xiaobo was taken away from his home by policeAnother scholar and Charter 08 signatory, Zhang Zuhua, was also taken away by police at that time. According to Zhang, the two were detained on suspicion of gathering signatures to the Charter. While Liu was detained, in solitary confinement,[  he was not allowed to meet with his lawyer or family, though he was allowed to eat lunch with his wife, Liu Xia, and two policemen on New Year’s Day 2009.

On 23 June 2009, the Beijing procuratorate approved Liu Xiaobo’s arrest on charges of “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power,” a crime under article 105 of China’s Criminal Law. In a Xinhua news release announcing Liu’s arrest, the Beijing Public Security Bureau alleged that Liu had incited the subversion of state power and the overturn of the socialist system through methods such as spreading rumors and slander, citing almost verbatim Article 105; the Beijing PSB also noted that Liu had “fully confessed.”


On 1 December 2009, Beijing police transferred Liu’s case to the procuratorate for investigation and processing; on 10 December, the procuratorate formally indicted Liu on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” under and sent his lawyers, Shang Baojun and Ding Xikui, the indictment document. He was tried at Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court on 23 December 2009. His wife was not permitted to observe the hearing, although his brother-in-law was present. Diplomats from more than a dozen states Ð including the U.S., Britain, Canada, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand Ð were denied access to the court to watch the trial and stood outside the court for its duration.  Amongst these included Gregory May, political officer at the U.S. Embassy, and Nicholas Weeks, first secretary of the Swedish Embassy.

I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who have monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While IÕm unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities, including Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present. I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on DecemberÊ3.

For hatred is corrosive of a personÕs wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nationÕs spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a societyÕs tolerance and humanity, and block a nationÕs progress to freedom and democracy. 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….

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.

– Liu Xiaobo, 23 December 2009

On 25 December, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” According to Liu’s family and counsel, he plans to appeal the judgment. In the verdict, Charter 08 was named as part of the evidence supporting his conviction. John Pomfret of The Washington Post said Christmas Day was chosen to dump the news because the Chinese government believed Westerners were less likely to take notice on a holiday.

China’s political reform […] should be gradual, peaceful, orderly and controllable and should be interactive, from above to below and from below to above. This way causes the least cost and leads to the most effective result. I know the basic principles of political change, that orderly and controllable social change is better than one which is chaotic and out of control. The order of a bad government is better than the chaos of anarchy. So I oppose systems of government that are dictatorships or monopolies. This is not ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Opposition is not equivalent to subversion.

– Liu Xiaobo, Guilty of ‘crime of speaking’, 9 February 2010

In an article published in the South China Morning Post, Liu argued that his verdict violated China’s constitution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. He argued that charges against him of ‘spreading rumours, slandering and in other ways inciting the subversion of the government and overturning the socialist system’ were contrived, as he did not fabricate or create false information, nor did he besmirch the good name and character of others by merely expressing a point of view, a value judgment.[36]


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