A recent e-mail from The Human Rights Foundation tells the story of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese academic who received the Nobel Peace Prize just over a year ago. Two years ago he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for writing and promoting Charter 08, a manifesto that appeals for freedom of expression, democratic elections, and human rights in China.Not surprisingly the Chinese government refused to let him collect his prize, and even imprisoned his wife to keep her from going to Oslo to accept in her husband's stead.
Two years ago he gave a profound and moving statement in court, "the finest articulation of the struggle for freedom in modern China..." I'm posting this here because at this time of year a message like this is an important reminder of how blessed we are in this country (for all its problems) and because, as the HRF says, Liu's message is "a profoundly moving declaration of the power of love against all odds."
I've edited the message for space reasons, but I think you will still find it remarkable, and I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it.
I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement*
December 23, 2009
When I think about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have been, surprisingly, associated with courts: My two opportunities to address the public have both been provided by trial sessions at the Beijing Municipal Intermediate People's Court, once in January 1991, and again today. Although the crimes I have been charged with on the two occasions are different in name, their real substance is basically the same--both are speech crimes...But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my "June Second Hunger Strike Declaration" twenty years ago--I have no enemies and no hatred...
Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love...
If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. She could not be present as an observer in court today, but I still want to say to you, my dear, that I firmly believe your love for me will remain the same as it has always been. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.
My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I've made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views . . . can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist... I hope that I will be the last victim of China's endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech...
There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.
Thank you, everyone.
*This English translation by Human Rights in China was originally published in issue no. 1, 2010, of its quarterly journal China Rights Forum, entitled "Freedom of Expression on Trial in China," available at www.hrichina.org/public/
(1) Lin Zhao (林昭, 1932-1968) was a writer who, in 1962, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after criticizing the government during the Hundred Flowers Campaign. In prison, Lin famously continued to write critical commentary in her own blood after her writing instruments were confiscated. She was executed in 1968.
(2) Zhang Zhixin (张志新, 1930-1975) was a dissident member of the Communist Party of China who criticized Mao Zedong and the ultra-left during the Cultural Revolution. She was imprisoned in 1969, and was tortured and gang-raped. Prison guards slit her throat prior to her execution to prevent her from denouncing the government before her death.