Liu Xiaobo, China’s Most Prominent Dissident, Dies but His Memory Lives On

Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo passed away on July 13. As Amnesty International states eloquently, “Today we grieve the loss of a giant of human rights. Liu Xiaobo was a man of fierce intellect, principle, wit and above all humanity.”

The activist started out as a university professor in Beijing in the 1980s, but soon became active in China’s pro-democracy movement. In 1989 he joined the student protesters in Tiananmen Square. On June 2, the day before the military began its armed crackdown, he went on a hunger strike in the Square with three friends. They made this declaration:

“We advocate the spread of democracy in China through peaceful means, and we oppose violence in any form. At the same time, we are unafraid of violence. Our aim is to show through peaceful means how the iron resolve of Chinese people who want democracy will in the end demolish an undemocratic order that maintains itself with bayonets and lies.”

(Translation by Perry Link in “No Enemies, No Hatred“)

These are the words that he lived by.

Mr. Liu was arrested after the military swept into Tiananmen Square. Although hundreds of demonstrators were killed, he and his friends saved many lives when they negotiated with soldiers to allow others to leave peacefully. 

Liu Xiaobo Spent Much Of The Past 30 Years In Forced Confinement

He subsequently spent 21 months in detention and later was sentenced to three years in a labor camp. He spent much of the next 30 years in forced confinement, punished for his continual insistence on speaking up in favor of reform and democracy in China, and publishing numerous books on that topic.

Specifically, Mr. Liu demanded that the Chinese Communist leaders overhaul the constitution and introduce elections, freedom of speech, of the press, of religion and of assembly. And he kept on fighting for his beliefs, despite all the years of persecution and attempts to silence him.

In 2009 he began serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” A year later, his steadfast resistance earned Mr. Liu the Nobel Peace Prize, but the Chinese authorities would not allow him to go to Oslo to receive his prize. Instead, an empty chair symbolized his absence and Liv Ullmann read his words of acceptance.


Photo Credit: Utenriksdepartementet UD

Mr. Liu was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May 2017, and those same Chinese authorities refused to allow him to go abroad for medical treatment, or to let friends visit him in his final days.

He died on July 13, still a captive of the government.

I never met Liu Xiaobo, but I was privileged to meet Wei Jinghsheng, another prominent Chinese dissident, when he visited Los Angeles in 1997. A champion for democracy in China, Wei had spent almost 18 years in different prisons, and had just recently been released. Yet he was not bitter, but strong and at peace with himself, smiling almost beatifically as he signed copies of his book “The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters from Prison and Other Writings.

I imagine Liu Xiaobo must have had that same strength and conviction that he was doing the right thing.

Thousands Of Political Prisoners In China

China denies that it has any political prisoners, but the Congressional-Executive Commission on China maintains a database that shows something quite different.

Click here, and you can see thousands upon thousands of the country’s jailed, murdered and missing political prisoners, beginning in 1981.

The Chinese government is clearly afraid of people like Liu Xiaobo, but advocates for human rights will honor his memory.

“Although he has passed, everything he stood for still endures,” writes Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “The greatest tribute we can now pay him is to continue the struggle for human rights in China and recognize the powerful legacy he leaves behind. Thanks to Liu Xiaobo, millions of people in China and across the world have been inspired to stand up for freedom and justice in the face of oppression.”

RIP, Liu Xiaobo.

Photo Credit: Blatant World


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

Mike R
Mike R4 months ago

Signed, thanks

Mike R
Mike R4 months ago

Signed, thanks

Mike R
Mike R4 months ago

Signed, thanks

iloshechka A
iloshechka A6 months ago


ANA MARIJA R6 months ago

Thank You & RIP, Liu Xiaobo.

Tim C
Tim C6 months ago


heather g
heather g6 months ago

Why does China not care what outsiders and it's own protesters think? They've made so much progress but this treatment of so-called dissitants gives them such a bad name. The Govt is hardly going to lose power because it shows mercy.

Margie F7 months ago

Thank you

Lenore K
Lenore K7 months ago