Perry Link at the NYR Blog reports on the circumstances surrounding the eleven-year sentence in China of writer Liu Xiaobo,”which aims at Liu’s support for Charter 08 and his writings on human rights, democracy, and rule of law in China.”
If the purpose of the harsh sentence was to intimidate others, it has not worked well. Hundreds of signers of Charter 08 have endorsed an additional statement declaring that if Liu Xiaobo is guilty then we are, too. Cui Weiping, a film scholar (and translator of Vaclav Havel into Chinese), spent the days following the announcement of Liu’s sentence conducting a telephone survey of more than 100 prominent Chinese intellectuals, including both signers and non-signers of Charter 08, on how they viewed the sentence. Finding almost unanimous disgust, she collected her findings under the heading “We Give Up on Nothing” and published them in a series of twitter feeds that circulated widely in China and abroad—even to my computer in California. Until now, the authorities have not been able to stop her….
The eminent historian Yu Ying-shih, reached at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, noted that this was the third time in twenty years that China’s rulers have sent Liu Xiaobo to political prison, and “each time has been more glorious than the last.”…
On Liu’s own opinion of his sentence, we have the following written statement, relayed from prison by his lawyers, on December 29, the same day he decided to appeal:
The sentence violates the Chinese constitution and international human rights covenants. It cannot bear moral scrutiny and will not pass the test of history. I believe that my work has been just, and that someday China will be a free and democratic country. Our people then will bathe in the sunshine of freedom from fear. I am paying a price to move us in that direction, but without the slightest regret. I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer.
*John Donne, Meditation 17
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…”