It seems like such a simple right: I’m sitting here writing my blog, or you’re sitting there reading it …neither of us fearing that the state Police will break down our doors, throw handcuffs on us, scare the hell out of our families, seize our computers and cart us away to be imprisoned … maybe even beaten.
But that is reality in China.
That great country, rising economic giant still yearns for our respect and acceptance as an “equal”, while it ignores basic human rights and governs its people as a dictatorship.
Never should it get our respect or full acceptance, as it now exists! Not until their leaders, their courts, their laws start showing respect for their people, their rights, their dignity, and release Liu Xiabo and other prisoners whose only crimes were to speak out for freedom and basic rights.
Liu Xiabo is serving an 11-year sentence in China for “subversion”. His crime? Advocating for the right to peaceful political change.
The internationally well respected (eat your hearts out, Chinese leadership!) scholar, writer, poet and social commentator staged a hunger strike during the 1989 Tienanmen Square protests and helped neogtiate the eventual stand-down and withdrawal by Chinese students and democracy demonstrators. His reward for that: almost constant harassment and persecution from the gang in charge of China.
Then in 2008, his latest arrest, after helping author a pro-democracy manifesto that began circulating on the Internet. It urged freedom, human rights and equality as “universal values shared by all humankind.” Dangerous, unacceptable thoughts in China--a crime that has seen Liu in prison ever since.
Now, Liu has been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Bravo! Well deserved! The least the free world can do, since our leaders lack the fortitude and/or economic independence and detrmination to take stronger action against China.
The Chinese government has reacted like the bullies they are, by threatening countries that attend the Nobel Prize Ceremony; placing Liu’s wife under house arrest so she could not leave the country to attend the ceremony; and, by even cutting off the entire country’s access to international Internet sites--as if forcefully burying their people’s heads in the sand would prevent them from seeing what is going on outside the world’s largest prison.
And take a look at the list of countries that acceded to China’s call for a Nobel ceremony boycott: in most cases, not much of a surprise and, in some cases, criminal regimes themselves. Afghanistan, Columbia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Viet Nam. They have shamed themselves, and in most cases not for the first time! It’s a list we should all take note of and not forget.
I do understand the complexities of governing such a huge population in such a large country, where tribalism and clan animosities could pose threats to stability if left unchecked, but there is no justification for denying Chinese citizens their right to speak out, protest or enjoy basic freedoms.
Liu Xiaobo is humanity’s hero.
He deserves our respect; our voices, and our continuing efforts to not only free him, but also make it loudly known to Chinese officials everywhere in the world that they will never get the respect they crave from the Western world until they start deserving it.
All bloggers should stand with Liu.
Harv Oberfeld is a BC-based journalist. This piece originally appeared in his blog, Keeping it Real. Reprinted with his kind permission.