Who is Liu Xiaobo?
Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese professor, writer, and human rights activist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while still under detention in a Chinese prison. Till date he has not been able to collect his prize in person. The citation and the medal are displayed in the Oslo Hall waiting for him to collect them. He has always been outspoken about the freedom of speech, human rights, democratic elections and government reforms. This has not gone down well with the Chinese government as he has been detained, imprisoned, kept under house arrest, and kept incommunicado many times, even from his wife sometimes, during his life. He was given a prison sentence of eleven years for writing the manifesto named ‘Charter 08’ and for ‘inciting subversion of state power.’ The manifesto called for the change of the one-party rule in China, restoration of human rights, democratic elections, and privatization of state organizations, land reforms and freedom of expression among other things. He had gathered more than three hundred signatures in support of the manifesto which increased to more than 10,000 signatures by 2010.
Childhood & Early Life
Liu Xiaobo was born on December 28, 1955 in Changchun, in the Jilin province in mainland China into a family of intellectuals.
In 1969 he was taken by his father to Inner Mongolia as part of the ‘Down to the Countryside Movement’.
He completed his middle school education in 1974 and went to a countryside farm in the Jilin province to work there.
He enrolled at the ‘Department of Chinese Literature’ of the Jilin University in 1977.
In 1982 he graduated with a BA degree in Chinese literature from the university. He got enrolled at the Beijing Normal University the same year and completed his MA in literature in 1984 and started working as a lecturer at the university.
He started his doctoral program in 1986 and shocked many ideological and literary persons with his radical writings.
He received his PhD in literature in 1988 and his thesis was published later as a book.
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In 1988 Xiaobo was invited by various European and American universities as a visiting professor.
He came back to China from the United States to take part in the student protests at the Tiananmen Square on April 27, 1989. He organized a hunger strike consisting of four people in support of students demands.
When the Chinese government cracked down on the students in Tiananmen Square with tanks and killed many demonstrating students, he negotiated with the student leaders and the military commander to allow rest of the students to leave the square in peace. His efforts at bringing peace saved thousands of lives.
He was arrested on June 5, 1989, for his involvement in the students’ protests and was detained in the Qincheng Prison.
Three months later he was expelled from the ‘Beijing Normal University’ and all his writings were banned.
After 19 months of being in prison, he was convicted of ‘counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement’ in January 1991. He was exempted from any criminal punishment due to his role in brokering peace and saving a large number of lives and was released after six months.
In January 1993 he went to Australia and then the United States after being invited to give interviews but returned to China in May 1993 despite being cautioned by friends.
All through his free and detention periods he kept on writing and published several books.
On May 18, 1995, he was arrested again for bringing out a petition asking the Chinese government for initiating political reforms.
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He co-authored an ‘October Tenth Declaration’ with another dissident named Wang Xizhe against the threats given to Taiwan which wanted a reunification with the mainland. He was again arrested on October 8, 1995.
He was sent to a labor camp to serve a sentence of three years of ‘re-education through labor’ for writing against the government and was released on October 7, 1999.
Though he continued writing, his internet connections and telephone conversations were tapped by the police.
He participated in the writing of the manifesto ‘Charter 08’. Two days before the manifesto was released, Xiaobo was arrested again on December 8, 2008 along with another signatory named Zhang Zuhua. He was kept in solitary confinement and his arrest was approved by the Beijing procuratorate on June 23, 2009.
He was charged with ‘suspicion of inciting subversion of state power’ and on December 1, 2009, sentenced to eleven years in prison under the Chinese Criminal Law. He has been in prison since then.
Xiaobo’s first book ‘Criticism of the Choice: Dialogues with Li Zehou’ was published in 1987.
His second book was his doctoral thesis ‘Aesthetic and Human Freedom’, which was published in 1988.
His third book titled ‘Mysteries of Thought and Dreams of Mankind’ came out in two volumes in 1989-1990.
Other than these, he has many other books, articles, poems to his credit.
Awards & Achievements
Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2010 for his non-violent human rights struggle in China.
Personal Life & Legacy
Liu Xiaobo married his first wife Tao Li in 1984 and had a son named Liu Tao in 1985.
He divorced Tao Lin in 1991 after his release from prison. His wife and son immigrated to the US after the divorce.
In 1996, he married Liu Xia while under detention in a labor camp.