Chinese Nobel laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo died three years ago on July 13 at the age of 61 from complications arising out of liver cancer. He was arrested from his Beijing residence in 2009 for his involvement in drafting a document called ‘Charter 08’, which called for political reforms in China. According to The New York Times, Xiaobo was the first Nobel laureate since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky to die in state custody.
In 1989, Xiaobo left his position as a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City to take part in the pro-democracy protests in China.
Who was Liu Xiaobo?
Born on December 28, 1955, in China, Xiaobo a writer, activist, literary critic and philosopher was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
One of Xiaobo’s central demands from the Chinese authorities was the compliance of Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, as per which, citizens have the right of freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, of procession and demonstration.
Why was Xiaobo arrested?
Xiaobo was arrested several times, the first in 1989 for supporting pro-democracy students during the Democracy Movement. He was jailed for 21 months. In June 1989, Xiaobo along with a few others went on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square to protest against martial law and appeal for peaceful negotiations between the government and the protesting students.
Xiaobo was imprisoned again from 1996-99 for criticising China’s policies towards Taiwan and Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
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His longest sentence of 11 years came in 2009 for his involvement in drafting Charter 08 that called for Chinese political reforms towards democracy. The document was fashioned after Charter 77, written by Czechoslovakian dissidents in 1977. Charter 08 was issued to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
According to a translation of the charter published in The New York Review of Books, the document stated, “The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.”
It also called into question the Chinese government’s approach to “modernisation” and called it “disastrous”. Essentially, the charter — which was perceived by many activists as the most important pro-democracy efforts since the Tiananmen Square protests — called for the ability of Chinese citizens to be able to elect their government.
On December 8, 2008, the Beijing police took away Xiaobo from his residence in Beijing, and was found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” on December 25, 2009.
The charter was signed by more than 10,000 supporters.
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