Remembering Liu Xiaobo: A Selection of Quotes

by Joshua Barnes    /  December 20, 2011  / 1 Comment


On Christmas Day, 2009 Liu Xiaobo–activist writer, literary critic, co-author of Charter 08, and future Nobel Laureate–was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and two years without political rights for “inciting subversion of state power.” Liu’s sentence has been the harshest yet received by a dissident writer in China.

On December 9, 2011, one year after the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Liu, who remains in prison, PEN American Center called on U.S. Congress and the international community to continue to advocate for his release, and “remind the Chinese authorities that we haven’t forgotten him.”

To support PEN’s efforts in remembering and recognizing Liu’s thoughts, Sampsonia Way presents a slide-show of quotes from works and interviews spanning his career–from the 1989 June Second Hunger Strike Manifesto to his 2007 article, “Further Questions About Child Slavery in China’s Kilns,” which contains material used to convict him of his crimes against the Chinese state.

Liu’s words touch on his frustration with the Communist Party of China’s authoritarian politics, the role of literature in the advancement of society, and his hope for a free China. Other quotes come from his poetry, written in 1997 during Liu’s three year forced labor camp “re-education”, from a 2010 interview with his wife Liu Xia, from a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and from Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

In an interview in early December PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah said: “It’s very important that all of us here at PEN and all the friends of PEN work to remind the Chinese that we haven’t forgotten him and it’s their obligation in the name of international law and, indeed, in the name of the Chinese constitution, to release him, to allow him to go back to become one of the free voices of China.”

In a written testimony, PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee Chair Marian Botsford Fraser pointed out: “This surge of activism, of citizens simply asking the question ‘why,’ of seeking and imparting information, regardless of frontiers, lends hope that China is changing, and that change has begun with the people and their exercise of their internationally-protected, inalienable right to freedom of expression. People are coming to realize, as [popular Chinese writer] Murong Xuecun said of Chen Guangcheng, that ‘at the moment his freedom was arbitrarily taken away, your freedom came under threat.’”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession.

Read Liu Xiaobo’s final statement, from December 23, 2009.

Read English translations of Liu Xiaobo’s poetry.

Read Liu Xiaobo’s June Second Hunger Strike Manifesto.

Watch a 2006 interview with Liu Xiaobo and PEN America.

About the Author

Joshua Barnes is Sampsonia Way's Associate Editor. In 2010 he earned a bachelor’s degree in Fiction Writing and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. During his undergraduate career, he was awarded 2009′s Ossip Award in Critical Writing for Anna Kavan: A Critical Study. Josh is involved with several musical projects and working on a variety of multi-media narratives.

View all articles by Joshua Barnes

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