• Kunihiko Tanaka

“Liu Xiaobo’s spirit of devotion will never be dead”


Mr. Liu Xiaobo, a prominent Chinese literary critic, writer, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed away at the age of 61 last Thursday in state custody. The activist had been serving an 11-year prison term for " inciting subversion of state power " and was recently moved to a hospital for treatment for terminal liver cancer. “Beijing attempts to doge the international and domestic criticism over Mr. Liu as much as possible through the transfer,” says a Japanese high governmental official, and many including Chinese dissidents in exile and U.S. representatives firmly believe Beijing intentionally killed Mr. Liu as a ”dangerous hindrance” to the autocratic regime. In 1989, Mr. Liu returned to China from the States, where he was a visiting scholar of Columbia University, to support the Tiananmen Square protests and joined the hunger strike organized by students. Mr. Liu became one of the major leaders of the protests. According to a demonstrator acting with Mr. Liu at the time, he consistently admonished students who tried to use weapons including guns, sticks and so on. “ Let’s discard our hatred. Hatred corrodes our minds. There is no enemy for us. Let’s bear a rational dialogue in mind.” After the massacre that followed the 1989 protests, most of his contemporaries and of the generations that followed gave up demanding democracy, judging the cost of political defiance in China was too high. However, remaining in China, Mr. Liu stood firm, stayed true to the ideals of 1989 for the rest of his life and was jailed repeatedly, which evokes an image of Gandhi. He was primarily a literary critic, loved literature and poetry, and didn’t like politics. But, the feeling of responsibility toward students who were killed in the 1989 massacre caused him to continue to get involved in democratic movements. “Somebody has to do it.” Mr. Liu once wrote about the life as a political dissident: “If you want to enter hell, don't complain of the dark; you can't blame the world for being unfair if you start on the path of the rebel."

Mr Liu’s sad death caused me to recall a valuable personal experience abroad again. Summer in 1987, I traveled by myself in China and Tibet for two months. I experienced for the first time such magnificent landscapes, spiritual cultural heritage sites, various ethnics and delicacies, and was totally impressed. However, the most touching thing was the talk with a Han Chinese railroad worker I accidentally met in front of Beijing Railway Station. The memory is still vivid though many years have passed since then. When we had a pleasant conversation in writing in his room, his face suddenly became so serious and started to write down something. A small piece of paper was filled with many Chinese characters. He pointed a finger at each word and asked, “Can you understand what these mean?” I tried to connect familiar words in my head and showed him what I understood namely “the corruption and tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party.” He gave a nod and earnestly appealed to me as a mere Japanese university student, “Please let Japanese people know this awful situation in China. “ After finishing talking, he tore the "charge paper" into pieces so that nobody could know what he wrote… Two years later, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests arose. As I also comprehended Tibetans’ deep indignation against Beijing through the visit to Tibetan refugee communities in Nepal following the China’s trip, I strongly felt the protests by the people were inevitable and hoped they could achieve democracy. Unfortunately, it resulted in the massacre by Beijing…

Even since Mr. Liu’s death, Beijing has continued to strictly censor and control the information about him. The Internet is not the exception. As the result of that, most Chinese people in China don’t even know of Mr. Liu’s existence. Even though some know, their usual impressions of him are a “criminal” influenced by Western ideas. It is the real nature of autocratic regimes of all ages and countries that they crush “hindrances” in every unfair way. If China cannot be democratized and remains the autocratic state, that means some “egoism-bloated” authorities and adulators continue to arbitrarily administer the superpower with the mighty military and police forces. The situation is surely a big threat to not only sensible Chinese people, ethnic minorities in China but also the future of mankind. In 1999, I had an exclusive interview with the 14th Dalai Lama in India. He expressed his sincere hope that China would become a democratic state. “If China becomes a more stable, open, realistic and democratic state, that will also be immense benefits for all neighboring states including Japan. Chinese people themselves want more openness, freedom and liberty, and a solution for the Tibet issue is closely related to the democratization of China.” Mr. Liu showed the similar view in the interview by a Japanese major newspaper. He said Japan should raise its voice for the issue of human rights and democratization in China and the action would surely lead to Japan’s national interests. In 2010, Mr. Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China," but he was not permitted to travel to Norway to accept it. It's reported that he said in tears, “This prize is given to the souls of victims in the Tiananmen Square incident.”

In the statement from his trial in 2009 which was read at his Nobel award ceremony alongside his empty chair, Mr. Liu passionately expressed his longing for the democracy in China:

“I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views ... can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. “ Mr. Liu is reported to have left the dying words to his wife who had been devotedly, consistently supporting him in the long-term hardship. “Please do take care of yourself and be happy”… Many condolences have been extended internationally: "The Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death." (The Nobel Committee) ; “Mr Liu was a giant of human rights... a man of fierce intellect, principle, wit and above all humanity." (Amnesty International); "I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for human rights and freedom of expression." (German Chancellor Angela Merkel). Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s spirit of devotion will definitely be followed and never be dead. In fact, the precious spirit is more shining than ever.



Liu Xiaobo(Wikipedia)

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