More on 刘晓波 / Liu Xiaobo

By James Fallows

Twelve hours away from computers, as mentioned earlier, turned out to be 72 hours. Here is a selection of reactions worth noticing on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo.

1) General background on "Charter 08" and what Liu Xiaobo stands for. Late last year, when Liu was brought up for trial on "subversion" charges after months in detention, Perry Link wrote a valuable overview of his case here, in the NY Review of Books. And just today, in the Asia-Pacific Journal's "Japan Focus" site, Feng Chongyi goes into considerable depth about the "Charter 08" movement that was the cause both of Liu's arrest and of his Nobel Prize.

Feng's article is here, and among other important points it emphasizes an aspect of the "Charter 08" movement not always noticed in Western accounts: in addition to its calls for civil liberties and increasing rule of law, its focus on the political roots of China's increasing economic inequality. As Feng writes:

>>In tackling the issues of equity and inequality, Chinese liberals... see the despotic political system, as well as the marketisation of political power in the process of transition to the market economy (rather than the market economy per se), as the primary source of inequality, including the unequal distribution of wealth....  Chinese liberals draw the conclusion that unfair distribution in China today is not primarily manifested in the distribution of national income in the form of wages and property, but in the allocation and control of resources through political power.... [S]ocial injustice in China today is rooted in an unfair process of competition where some abuse political power to create and accumulate wealth while others lose out [because they have neither the fruits of the new economy or the protections of the now-removed socialist safety net].<<

Worth reading. It also includes this YouTube video of Liu -- in Chinese with subtitles.

See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/10/more-on-liu-xiaobo/64352/

2) On how to pronounce "Liu Xiaobo," and how Chinese bloggers and mobile-phone texters are devising ways to avoid instant censorship of any items mentioning his name as normally written in Chinese (刘晓波), see this entry by Victor Mair at the indispensable Language Log.

3) On the "arrogance" of Westerners who support Liu and his cause, here is a sample note from a reader with a Chinese surname and a Western personal name. His note was titled, "Why Liu Xiaobo deserves his punishment":

>>Here is Liu's prescription for China: "(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 take 300 years of colonialism 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."

Would Americans take pride in an American who openly advocated the invasion and then occupation of the US for several centuries by a foreign power - say like the Chinese or Russians?

Would the English take pride in an Englishman who openly advocated the invasion and then occupation of Britain for several centuries by a foreign power - say like the Chinese or Russians?

Yet you an American demand that the Chinese be 'proud' of this traitor?

Sounds a bit arrogant and hypocritical to me.<<

You will see this "300 years of colonialism" quote absolutely all over the internet, in the comments section disagreeing with any item that defends Liu. At the moment I don't know its provenance and whether it's accurate at all. Two things I'm sure of are (a) it's in no way representative of Liu's general position, which is that of a Chinese nationalist working to bring universal values to his own country; and (b) this is plainly the talking-point ginned up against Liu by those who feel threatened by his award. 
 
4) Some reactions from Chinese students:

So many people have so many reactions that it is impossible to be representative. But a Western reader friend who has worked for years as a teacher in China sent these first reactions from his former students:

>>Universally, reports are that there is no information available in either English or Chinese.

6 - Hi, [teacher's name], haven't heard from you for a long time. It's really a piece of wonderful news, but I have no comment on that. I have a kind of complicated feeling about that, good and bad. I don't know weather it is helpful for the development of China or just a big HUMOR. I do hope good for China and the whole world. I Do hope the international community could do something practical to seize the heart of Chinses public. Hope everthing goes well. Expect to see you in Beijing in November. Best wishes!

5 -I heard the news, however, the Chine.se Govern.ment is trying to stop people from getting to know him. We can't google him, we even cannot type his name on some of the major websites. (To be honest, I can't guarantee that you can get this email, at least not without some kind of supervision.)That's one reason causes me to hate and feel shamed of being a Chinese. Anyway, I hope the pride can help him get out of jail.

4 - I don't know. The road that the Chines.e Govern.ment chosed is a very dangerous one. There's no greater power than the people' power. I mean, without its people, what's country? A piece of land full pigs won't be called a territory. However, I really don't know what can I do, as a powerless citizen in a powerful country. I wish this is the turning point, I wish we can start to realize the situation and change for the better.

3 - I have to admit that having no result makes me uncomfortable after searching in Chinese.

2 - Well, it's really out of my expectation. My Party needs to have great wisdom to handle this.

1- Really!!! I heard about him before. However, I cannot find any information about him on the internet. This news really surprised me. Thanks old buddy.<<

More shortly, including several views from Norway. Thanks to readers in China and elsewhere for writing in.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/10/more-on-liu-xiaobo/64352/