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Liu Xiaobo

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”     — William Shakespeare

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Nobel Peace Prize Awardee,  Liu Xiaobo ((28 December 1955 – 13 July 2017)  of China died of multiple organ failure due to liver cancer on July 13. He was 61. He was incarcerated as a political prisoner in Jinzhou, Liaoning. On 26 June 2017, he was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and he was shifted to a leading hospital where he died after a fortnight.

A key part of news about his last days in hospital were  omitted, among other things,  in most news stories. Instead, there was disinformation that he was denied good treatment. See the following  from a report by a western mediaperson, Curtis Stone, in  People’s Daily Online.

“First Hospital of China Medical University, where Liu was treated by a medical team that included two foreign doctors from Germany and the United States, did its best to save him, his main doctor Liu Yunpeng said at a press conference on July 14, Friday. Dr. Liu stressed that the hospital made “every effort” in his medical treatment. During his last hours, Liu was accompanied by his wife and several relatives. They were very grateful for the hard work of all the doctors and nurses, according to the hospital, Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.”

Worldwide, media poured out obituaries and related stories, as also in India. He was regarded as a great champion for human rights . His was a sad and painful end with cancer. Being nose-fed by western media agencies, we mostly do not get  news  that is not twisted to suit vested interests. What is available on public domain about him is also mostly omitted or covered up by mainstream media. Some aspects that needed to be told were mostly missing, or distorted, also in countercurrents.org, which has been telling, fearlessly and  tirelessly,  the other side, in fact the real side, of the news  stories. Hence this write-up if only to record  some facts, whatever one’s ideology,  so that things can be seen in a balanced manner and with overall perspective. So that we do not become victims of misinformation or disinformation.  ( All emphases are added.)

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The Peace champion who backed all wars waged by US

Much of this article is based, unless otherwise stated, on information given in the Wikipedia article, on Liu Xiaobo,   that has  238 Footnotes and references. On his politics it says:

“ In international affairs, he supported U.S. President George W. Bush‘s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, his 2003 invasion of Iraq and his re-election…. In his 2004 article titled “Victory to the Anglo-American Freedom Alliance”, he praised the US-led post-cold war conflicts as “best examples of how war should be conducted in a modern civilization.”

“He wrote “regardless of the savagery of the terrorists, and regardless of the instability of Iraq’s situation, and, what’s more, regardless of how patriotic youth might despise proponents of the United States such as myself, my support for the invasion of Iraq will not waver. Just as, from the beginning, I believed that the military intervention of Britain and the United States would be victorious, I am still full of belief in the final victory of the Freedom Alliance and the democratic future of Iraq, and even if the armed forces of Britan and the United States should encounter some obstacles such as those that they are curently facing, this belief of mine will not change.” He predicted “a free, democratic and peaceful Iraq will emerge.”

His views on Islam, Israel etc, also from same source, are equally noteworthy:

“He commented on Islamism that, “a culture and (religious) system that produced this kind of threat (Islamic fundamentalism), must be extremely intolerant and blood-thirsty.”… During the 2004 US presidential election, Liu again praised Bush for his war effort against Iraq and condemned Democratic Party candidate John Kerry for not sufficiently supporting the wars in which the U.S. was then involved.

“On Israel, he said “without America’s protection, the long persecuted Jews who faced extermination during World War II, probably would again be drowned by the Islamic world’s hatred.” He has defended U.S. policies in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, which he thinks is the fault of the “provocateur” Palestinians.”

Brij Tankha, who  retired as professor of modern Japanese history from Delhi University and is an honorary fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi,  made some comments of  the connection between his views on US  and his criticism for China . His was a view, critical of China but not blind to reforms there, that was perhaps  among few exceptions  in the Indian media.  He wrote in THE WIRE, online journal, on 15/07/2017 :  

The death of Liu is a tragedy for his wife, the poet Liu Xia, his friends, for China and for the world. However, his image as an almost-Gandhian figure is exaggerated. Liu joined the student movement in Tianamen and later,  through his writings and protests, mounted a critique of both the supporters of socialism and class struggle, and the Chinese government’s autocracy. Liu’s political views were controversial. As two Hong Kong-based scholars pointed out, in an article in the Guardian in 2010, Liu supported the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in fact all US interventions, as ethically defensible; he blamed the Palestinians and supported Israel; and was an admirer of George Bush for going after Saddam Hussein.

“But his dream for China was singular: he wanted to make it into a Western country. He was contemptuous of the Chinese national character, dismissing it as spineless, and argued that the only way for the Chinese to become human was to become Western. Not at all like the Gandhi  we know.”

He added:

“The government (of China) has came down heavily on certain occasions, such as in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics and during the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, but at the same time free legal aid has increased as well. The government recognises that the law is an important instrument to reduce social conflict and ensure stability. Since 1994, China has built a vast network of institutions and provided funding for free legal aid. Government sources say that these offices handle over four million people annually and 600,000 people benefit from free legal aid.”

(https://thewire.in/157894/liu-xiaobo-china-dissent/)

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Liu’s  attitude towards China and colonialism

Liu was a rare person who wished the return of colonialism, at least for China. The Wikipedia article has this  to say on Liu’s  attitude towards China :

“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 the interview  he  clarified : “modernization means wholesale westernization, choosing a human life is choosing a Western way of life. The difference between the Western and the Chinese governing system is humane vs. inhumane, there’s no middle ground … Westernization is not a choice of a nation, but a choice for the human race.”

Not a choice…. How then is this modernization to be realized?

“[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 require 300 years as a colony 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, because it represented “an extreme expression of his long-held belief”.

What was the source of his views vis-à-vis US and China ?

Wikipedia clarifies:

“In an article in The New York Review of Books, Simon Leys wrote that Liu Xiaobo’s perception of the West and its relationship to a modernizing China evolved during his travels in the United States and Europe in the 1980s.”

He was a visiting Professor in those countries,  including in  Columbia University, the University of Oslo, and the University of Hawaii. During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Liu was in the United States but he decided to return to China to join the movement. It was with such views, and such mission, that he returned from US to China to support the 1989 protests.

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Liu’s  philosophy: Sacrifice Selflessly….

 for the ‘Right to be Selfish’

Wikipedia further says this on his philosophy:

“In his letter to his friend Liao Yiwu in 2000, he expressed his thoughts on the prospects of the democracy movement in China: Compared to others under the Communist black curtain, we cannot call ourselves real men. Through the great tragedies of all these years, we still don’t have a righteous giant like [Václav] Havel. In order for everyone to have the right to be selfish, there has to be a righteous giant who will sacrifice selflessly

 “In order to obtain “passive freedoms” (freedom from the arbitrary oppression by those in power), there has to be a will for active resistance. In history, nothing is fated. The appearance of a martyr will  completely change a nation’s soul and raise the spiritual quality of the people. But Gandhi was by chance, Havel was by chance; two thousand years ago, a peasant’s boy born in the manger was even more by chance. Human progress relies on the chance birth of these individuals. One cannot count on the collective conscience of the masses but only on the great individual conscience to consolidate the weak masses. In particular, our nation needs this righteous giant; the appeal of a role model is infinite.”

He was himself the role model and saviour  he visualized.  Fortunately, later on, he realized a little about himself, perhaps too late.  The Wikipedia says :

“During a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City,    he experienced a sort of epiphany that crystallized the turmoil of his latest self-questioning: he realized the shallowness of his own learning in the light of the fabulous riches of the diverse civilizations of the past, and simultaneously perceived the inadequacy of contemporary Western answers to mankind’s modern predicament. His own dream that Westernization could be used to reform China suddenly appeared to him as pathetic as the attitude of ‘a paraplegic laughing at a quadriplegic’, he confessed at the time:

“ My tendency to idealize Western civilization arises from my nationalistic desire to use the West in order to reform China. But this has led me to overlook the flaws of Western culture …

I have been obsequious toward Western civilization, exaggerating its merits, and at the same time exaggerating my own merits. I have viewed the West as if it were not only the salvation of China but also the natural and ultimate destination of all humanity. Moreover I have used this delusional idealism to assign myself the role of saviour …

I now realize that Western civilization, while it can be useful in reforming China in its present stage, cannot save humanity in an overall sense. If we stand back from Western civilization for a moment, we can see that it possesses all the flaws of humanity in general … ”

Some realization, of his shallowness etc,  perhaps too late.  But the Obituary writers were mostly oblivious to all these things. They had no realization, even belatedly.

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Politics of Nobel Peace Prize

Most of the obituaries  blamed China  for not  providing good treatment to  Liu. Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, blamed the Chinese communist regime for his death and said that “Liu Xiaobo had contributed to the fraternity of peoples through his non-violent resistance against the oppressive actions of the Communist regime in China.”

So it was not liver cancer that killed Liu, the Nobel Committee proclaims. Incidentally, Liu’s father, a loyal Communist and professor of Chinese at Northeast Normal University, also died of liver disease in September 2011. His youngest brother, Liu Xiaodong died of heart disease early in the 1990s. But the Norwegian Nobel Committee, blamed the Chinese communist regime for his death. A key part of news about his last days in hospital was also omitted in most stories. Instead, there was disinformation that he was denied good treatment, as mentioned above.  The thought-provoking  title of the news story, by Curtis Stone,  is also notable:

“Liu Xiaobo’s death is unfortunate, but so is the coordinated effort to undermine China”.

Curtis Stone writes:

“After he was diagnosed with a hard to detect form of liver cancer, he was transferred to a hospital on medical parole for better medical care. People all over the world applauded China’s compassionate decision to grant him medical parole, but also demanded more…..

He further wrote:

“The rapid deterioration and ultimate death of Liu is, no doubt, a huge misfortune, made worse by how his death is being politicized.”

Politics of Nobel Peace Prize are well-known to the discerning. It was given to US President Obama too early, long before the world has witnessed the Obama era of more wars, not only deadly but also most unjust and unwarranted. It was given not only to Nelson Mandela but also to the representative of South Africa’s racist rulers simultaneously. It was given to Dalai Lama , the Buddhist Monk who led an armed struggle, aided and abetted by USA, against China that had abolished the exploitative rule, by his class of hereditary slave-owners,  which had continued into the 1950s. And people know of  a Peace Prize that was not given to MK Gandhi.

China was a great civilization, and modern China too is a big achiever in so many diverse fields. But Liu was the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China. It was in 2010 for Peace. We have seen what kind of peace he stood for as a supporter of all wars by US. Curtis Stone comments :

“ By granting him the Nobel Prize, the West has shown that Liu is a pawn in its game to undermine China. Now some are using the moment of his death to tarnish China’s image on the world stage and encourage more dissent. This makes one wonder if the pressure was really about saving Liu, or more about promoting Western ideas for the purpose of bringing about certain political changes in China.

Liu Xiaobo’s death, while unfortunate, should be a sobering reminder that many in the West remain hostile to China’s political development. It is nonsense to say that China opposes democracy and human rights simply because its system is different from the Western system. What China does oppose is the politicization of Liu’s case and any interference in its internal affairs.”

(http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/0714/c90000-9241823.html)

The same Curtis Stone (People’s Daily Onlinewrote on  July 21, 2017:

“By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo the Norwegian Nobel Committee wanted to underscore the fundamental connection between developing democracy and creating and securing peace,” said Norwegian Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen.

“That statement suggests a political motivation. Democracy is a powerful ideology that divides the world into two parts, with Western democracies on the “good” side and non-Western countries on the other side. People who subscribe to this ideology believe that Western democracies are superior to and generally more peaceful than any other regime type. This powerful ideology no doubt played a role in the Nobel Committee’s decision.”

“Chinese authorities argue that Liu Xiaobo had long engaged in illegal activities aimed at overthrowing the current government and undermining the current political system. He was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power.”

 Pot calling the kettle black

State by definition is an instrument of organized coercion, as Marx says, wielded by the ruling classes of the day. Occupy Wallstreet  movement in  USA  has demonstrated this quite recently. It is a democracy of 1vs.99.  All modern States have some kind of Rule of Law. So also China,  with its own political reforms. US had its McCarthyism, and now has denial of rights legally  in so many forms, sometimes with the alibi of threat of terrorism.  It indulged in third degree tortures too.  Same is the case with the West which had its share of fascism. US allies like Saudis have medieval regimes.  ‘If the standards of the Nuremberg trials were applied then every post-World War II American president would have been hanged as a war criminal’, as Noam Chomsky famously  pointed out. 

Hundreds of Obituaries were written on Liu in India wherein the writers ironically never mentioned the perpetual denial of human rights in India, even while branding China a totalitarian state with no democracy.  Democratic  India had its Emergency (1975-76)  regime that nullified Fundamental Rights and imprisoned one lakh political prisoners; and has a perpetual undeclared Emergency, wherein thousands of political prisoners  are incarcerated for decades, including hundreds as under-trials. It had its own Nelson Mandela in the form of Sheik Abdulla, Premier of Kashmir, who was a political prisoner for almost two decades. There are many Binayak Sens and  (wheel-chair bound patient)  Prof Saibabas  who were jailed for years, many  without even a conviction, and   many being denied even bail for years. India has death sentence in vogue, and executed  even its political prisoners. It has Article 356 used more than 120 times, invoked umpteen Black Laws including various kinds of preventive detention, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act; and has virulent sedition, contempt, defamation  and  censorship laws. It has witnessed pogroms wherein thousands (of Sikhs and Muslims) were hunted and killed along communal lines, and the culprits not only went scot free but were rewarded with high political offices. So is the case with dalits, who remain untouchables in vast parts of India, who are hunted, hounded, raped, killed, and face  social boycotts,  with impunity wherein the culprits go scot free despite all laws. There has been virtual police-military rule for decades in vast areas like Kashmir, North-East, and Central India with lakhs of armed forces deployed. It is known to use armed forces on civilians, condemned by many ex-military chiefs.  It has witnessed thousands of illegal encounters and unaccounted disappearances, recognized as such by its top Courts. The Indian State told its Supreme Court that there is no absolute right to life, and no right to privacy.  All Fundamental rights have restrictive clauses, increasingly invoked by the State.

Liu and China’s Rule of Law in Perspective

So China has its own Rule of Law. It was not as if Liu was denied any civil and legal rights. He was imprisoned for the first time from 1989 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 1996 and he was imprisoned for the third time from 1996 to 1999 for his involvement in the democracy and human rights movement. Obviously he was availing his legal rights.

On 27 April 1989, Liu returned from USA to Beijing and immediately became an active supporter of the Tiananmen  movement. When the army,  armed with Martial Law , seemed ready to violently eject the students who persistently occupied Tiananmen Square in order to challenge the government and the army that was enforcing its declaration of martial law, he initiated a four-man three-day hunger strike on 2 June. He was allowed to do so, despite Martial Law. Later referred to as the “Tiananmen Four Gentlemen Hunger Strike”, the action earned the trust of the students. He requested that both the government and the students abandon the ideology of class struggle and adopt a new political culture of dialogue and compromise. Although it was too late, on the night of 3 June he and his colleagues successfully negotiated with the student leaders and the army commander so the several thousand students who remained in the square would all be allowed to peacefully withdraw from it, thus preventing a possibly much larger scale of bloodshed.

In January 1991, 19 months after his arrest, Liu Xiaobo was convicted of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement”,   but he was exempted from criminal punishment due to his “major meritorious action” for preventing what could have been a bloody confrontation in Tiananmen Square.

Liu enjoyed for decades his foreign trips and assignments, even after Tiananmen.  In January 1993, Liu was invited to visit Australia and the USA for the interviews in the documentary film The Gate of Heavenly Peace. Although many of his friends suggested that he take refuge abroad, Liu returned to China in May 1993 and continued his freelance writing.

 Obviously, he was availing his legal rights:  He served as the President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, from 2003 to 2007. He was also the president of Minzhu Zhongguo (Democratic China) magazine since the mid-1990s.

On 8 December 2008, Liu was detained due to his participation with the Charter 08 manifesto. He was formally arrested on 23 June 2009 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power“, and  the Beijing procuratorate approved Liu’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 overthrow 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” 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 brother-in-law was present in the Court.   Diplomats from more than a dozen countries – including the U.S., Britain, Canada, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand – were denied access to the court in order to watch the trial and they all stood outside the court for its duration.  Among them were Gregory May, political officer at the U.S. Embassy, and Nicholas Weeks, first secretary of the Swedish Embassy.  He was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights on 25 December 2009.

Criminal law professor Gao Mingxuan pointed out that publishing provocative speech on the Internet and gathering signatures to advocate overthrow of government is no longer freedom of speech, it’s act prohibited by criminal law.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China pointed out that there are similar laws in many countries to prevent activities to advocate overthrow of government, such as Code of Laws of the United States of America, or Treason Act 1351 of England.

In December 2009, the European Union and United States issued formal appeals calling for the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo.  China’s government, responding to the international calls prior to the verdict, stated that other nations should “respect China’s judicial sovereignty and not do things that will interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Global Times published a statement saying that Liu Xiaobo and his case had properly undergone “strict legal procedure”, blaming Western regimes for sensationalizing the Liu Xiaobo story “in defiance of China’s judicial sovereignty”.

The Chinese paper also rejected the view that Liu Xiaobo should be described as “China’s Mandela, by stating: “Mandela was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for leading African people to anti-apartheid victory through struggles … however, awarding a Chinese prisoner who confronted authorities and was rejected by mainstream Chinese society derides China’s judicial system … [which] makes sure a society of 1.3 billion people runs smoothly.”

Thus Liu all through availed  Rule of Law.

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The same report also raised a point :

“Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution,” and the founder of The World Food Prize, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his lifetime of work to feed the hungry.

“So why not award the “Father of Hybrid Rice” the Nobel Peace Prize to Yuan Longping? This question lingers in the mind of many Chinese who continue to see the role of the Nobel Committee as nothing more than a platform for advancing the world’s most powerful ideology.

The comments make a point. Yuan Longping is a popular figure in China for his tireless fight against hunger. He developed the world’s first hybrid rice in 1974 and has received numerous national and international prizes and awards for his lifelong work to eradicate hunger. In 2004, he received The World Food Prize for developing the genetic materials and technologies essential for breeding high-yielding hybrid rice varieties. His pioneering research has not only helped transform China from food deficiency to food security within three decades, but has helped transform the world. Even farmers from the United States have benefited from his work.

Rice is a staple for a majority of the world’s population, including about 60 percent of China’s population. More efficient rice crops such as high-yielding hybrid rice play an important role in the battle against hunger—the root cause of many problems. The right to food is also a key human right, championed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Chinese people ask : “So why not award the “Father of Hybrid Rice” the Nobel Peace Prize to Yuan Longping?. This is pertinently pointed out by Curtis Stone, who comments :

“ By granting him the Nobel Prize, the West has shown that Liu is a pawn in its game to undermine China. Now some are using the moment of his death to tarnish China’s image on the world stage and encourage more dissent. This makes one wonder if the pressure was really about saving Liu, or more about promoting Western ideas for the purpose of bringing about certain political changes in China.

Liu Xiaobo’s death, while unfortunate, should be a sobering reminder that many in the West remain hostile to China’s political development.”

China soberly pointed out several times that democracy is neither absolute nor perfect in any country; it is related to the level of socio-political development of a given country; and it is committed to the various  International Covenants, the Rule of Law, and is seeking to constantly improve its democracy. Chinese people and its polity will decide how best to run their country.

China  also appealed to others to mind how best each country can look into its own practices and make improvements. There is no point in violating international democracy, in the name of human rights, seeking to export and impose their own far from perfect models, by overt and covert methods of subversion,  and indulging in  politics of war for Regime Changes in other countries  as the West, USA in particular, have been doing.

Therefore, as Curtis Stone concludes: “It is nonsense to say that China opposes democracy and human rights simply because its system is different from the Western system. What China does oppose is the politicization of Liu’s case and any interference in its internal affairs.”

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(MK Adithya is a mediaperson)

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    In the death of a person, people generally undermine the weaknesses and exemplify strengths. The Chinese dissent liu was one such case. The west, which maligned more than necessary people like Stalin and mao,naturally saw Liu as darling of freedom. Further, his support to Israel, USA imperialism, colonialism. Etc gave plenty to project him as a ‘ true democrat’. Therefore, they blamed Chinese government for his death. Had he passed away in USA or other west, he might have ‘ saved China from being blamed’ . As Carr rightly said, before reading the history, one should read the history of historians. Every person has good and bad ..