After Chinese pro-democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, his wife and nearly 40 Chinese legal scholars, dissidents and underground church organizers have been detained, roughed up, harassed or kept from leaving their homes.
"In the week after Liu won the Prize for his decades of promoting democratic change in China," reports Cara Anna for the Associated Press, dozens of Chinese who openly agreed with his views were hit by a massive police crackdown.
"The latest appears to be a woman who Liu has said was more qualified to win the prize, Ding Zilin, who has fought for years for China’s government to recognize the hundreds killed in the military’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989."
The Peace Prize winner is in prison for criticizing the government. Ever since the Prize was announced, his wife, Liu Xia, has been detained incommunicado at her home.
However she did manage to get an email message to a friend in which she asked more than 100 Chinese rights activists to attempt to go to Oslo to collect the prize on her husband’s behalf on December 10.
She said it is "unlikely" the Communist government would allow her to leave the country. It is not known how many of the 100 will be able to get to Norway.
Another pro-democracy activist, Zhang Hui, who is not being allowed out of his house, published on the Internet social networking site Twitter, a list of 40 mainland pro-democracy activists who Communist officials have detained or intimidated.
One who has simply dropped out of sight is Liu’s friend Ding, who is spokeswoman for the Tiananmen Mothers. Friends say they have been unable to reach her or her husband by phone or e-mail since Liu’s prize was announced.
The New York-based group Human Rights in China said that many Chinese pro-democracy figures have been sternly warned by the Communist government not to talk to journalists.
Some say they have been warned by the police or by their employers not to talk about the Nobel Prize.
The repression has spread to Christians as well.
"Ten police officials raided the home of a Christian in Beijing," reports Voice of the Martyrs, "in an effort to search for Hua Huiqi, a formerly imprisoned pastor. Every room in the house was ransacked, including a bedroom belonging to a child. The officials questioned the homeowner about intentions to meet with foreigners later that evening."
Voice of the Martyrs, founded by the late anti-Communist Romanian evangelist Richard Wurmbrand, withheld the name of the Chinese Christian, but quoted him saying, "Because the Beijing police have crossed the line, and have blatantly and continually abused the basic rights of my entire family, I hereby announce that today I will begin to continually fast and pray. I will pray to the Lord to bless China and to fill it with righteousness! I also request, brothers and sisters, that you pray for me and my family, and that God may grant us freedom from fear!"
"Pray that this believer will continue to set Christ apart as Lord without giving in to fear, always prepared to share Christ while living a holy life," requested Voice of the Martyrs. "Pray that other Christians facing opposition in China will also remain confident in Christ and look prayerfully and faithfully to Him. Pray that China will no longer violate the human rights of its citizens.
"Pray also for safety for Pastor Hua Huiqi."
"An increasing number of Chinese human-rights activists are Christians," writes Christian author David Aikman. The Oxford graduate earned his Ph.D in Russian and Chinese history in 1979, then served 23 years as a Time magazine correspondent and editor, during which he reported on most of the major historical events of the time and interviewed such world figures as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
"China’s Christian population is growing larger every month and prominent Christians have taken the lead in speaking up for Liu," writes Aikman. "In fact, one of Liu’s closest friends, the writer and outspoken Christian writer Yu Jie, was recently smothered with surveillance by government agents after he returned from a visit to the U.S.
"Yu was apparently targeted because he had published a book in Hong Kong called China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, which says the Communist leader is no different than his Communist Party boss Hu Jintao.
"Boston-based human-rights activist Chai Ling, who founded All Girls Allowed to combat China’s brutal compulsory abortion policy, first met Liu as a student leader in the Democracy demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.
"She believes strongly that China must have a spiritual transformation of its society before any major political reforms can be effective as part of a total package of reforms," writes Aikman.
She is also the source of a quotation attributed to Liu, "who is not even known to be a Christian," writes Aikman.
"‘Without God,’ Liu is claimed to have said, ‘China has no hope.’"
Word of the crackdown and Liu’s win of the Nobel Prize has spread throughout China although the Communist-controlled news media tried to suppress the story.
"It was really weird," said an American who works in Shanghai. "I had been watching the announcements of the Nobel Prizes for science, literature and economics, but I realized I hadn’t heard a word about the Peace Prize."
Although the Communist government attempts to control the flow of information, computer hacking and electronic gadgetry are national pastimes. Devices to subvert the government’s blocking of the Internet are sold freely on the street. As a result, many Chinese sidestep their government’s attempts to censor satellite TV news and such Internet sites as Google, YouTube and Facebook.
After it became obvious that Liu’s win had spread nationwide, the Chinese government then turned to attacking him personally as well as the Nobel committee. Beijing singled out the Norwegian government for not blocking the Nobel Committee’s decision. On Chinese TV, the award was denounced. Government websites erased online mentions of Liu – as if he had never existed.
One well-known pro-democracy blogger, Wen Yunchao, said a Twitter-like service run by the Chinese-owned Sina Corporation was so deluged with messages about Liu that extra employees had to be brought in to help censor them. Anybody mentioning Liu had their computer account cancelled and some were visited by police, who then confiscated their computers.
A pair of official Xinhua News Agency articles, placed prominently on major online services, attacked the prize as a tool the West is using to undermine China.
One alleged that Liu is in cahoots with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is widely unpopular in China because the government has accused him of wanting to regain Tibetan independence.
"A few people abroad have reacted to the news with joy, frolicking around as though they’ve taken drugs," reported one government-released article. "One of these people is the Dalai Lama, who won the Peace Prize in 1989. What’s the underlying link? The Dalai Lama and Liu Xiaobo are the political dolls of Western forces."
However, the government’s main focus was to keep Chinese democracy spokespersons away from TV news cameras.
Chinese legal scholar Teng Biao said some of his friends have been physically prevented by policemen from meeting foreign reporters. Another lawyer, Li Fangping, was told that until further notice he can leave his home only in a police car.
The award was a surprise not only to the Chinese Communists, but to conservatives. After years of giving the Peace Prize to dubious recipients such as Barack Obama and Al Gore, observers expressed astonishment that the Nobel committee would dare to antagonize the Chinese.
"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has suddenly seen the light," observed Guy Sorman, in City Journal magazine. "After a near-death experience last year, when it awarded its coveted Peace Prize to President Obama, the committee has redeemed itself, and the future of the prize, by honoring Liu.
"The Peace Prize has always tilted leftward: remember that recent winners have included not just Obama but Al Gore and Jimmy Carter.
"Selecting Liu Xiaobo, by contrast, is a real game-changer. Instead of bowing to the powers that be, the Nobel Committee is challenging the most oppressive power of all: the Communist Party of China.
"Liu Xiaobo is only one among many so-called Chinese dissidents," writes Sorman, "but he happens to be the most articulate and the most unbending. He has been offered many opportunities to leave China and live comfortably on some American campus.
"Liu, however, knows that the good fight must go on, and he has no desire to lose contact with his fellow Chinese citizens or squander his legitimacy by going into exile.
From prison, Liu told his wife he was dedicating the peace prize to the democracy movement’s "lost souls" – those who have lost their lives in the fight for freedom.
"Liu has articulated most explicitly what many Chinese want: a normal life in a normal country," writes Sorman. "What Liu calls ‘normal’ is genuine democracy and free markets, not the corrupt Chinese version of those concepts.
"Many times in the past, the Nobel Committee has bestowed its Peace Prize on obscure characters in a commendable effort to represent the world’s diversity.
"In recognizing Liu, however, the committee has rejected any temptation for cultural and moral relativism and elevated a transcendent figure," writes Sorman. "Liu is a global citizen who fights for universal values. He happens to be Chinese, incarcerated in a Chinese jail. If he were from Zimbabwe or Venezuela, he would voice the same passion for liberty."
In another astonishing move, the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Latin American conservative Mario Vargas Llosa.
"Unlike the difficult, distant poets recognized in recent years," noted Sorman. "Vargas Llosa is an indomitable freedom fighter in Latin America. He has always opposed the notion that authoritarianism – whether Cuban or Venezuelan – is essentially rooted in local culture.
"He has stood firmly against political exploitation in Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. The liberty that both men defend rightfully belongs to everyone and is not dependent on culture, ethnicity, or history.
"Whether it’s a coincidence, an effort to preserve the Nobel’s legitimacy, or simply a sign of the times, the Nobel Foundation’s decision to honor these two remarkable men in the same year is cause for celebration."
Inside China, it sparked a crackdown.
"I’m so sorry. I have a lot to say, but I don’t dare to talk. I’ve been confronted several times by police already since Liu Xiaobo won the prize," said writer Zhao Shiying, who signed Charter 08, a demand for democratic reforms. "Anyone who signed the charter" is getting police attention, he said. "I hope you understand this life we lead."
Some received threatening phone calls from police as they prepared to release an open letter calling for Liu’s release, said Xu Youyu, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who signed and helped prepare the letter. He said more than 120 people, including prominent activists and journalists, had signed.
"We call upon the Chinese authorities to approach Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize with realism and reason," the letter says. It also asks police to stop "these illegal actions."
"We thought we had to say something," said Xu, who added that he personally had not been harassed. "The government is still doing the same things."
Beijing-based activist Fan Yafeng told the Associated Press that he has been roughed up by the police who watch him.
Zhou Duo, a friend of Liu who took part in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, said state security officers have kept him in his home since the night of October 9, when he was to attend a dinner to celebrate the peace prize.
Dissident author Yu Jie said his bags were searched when he returned from a trip to the United States. Police told him that he now must have a police escort everywhere he travels.
The Chinese government responded angrily to the award, saying the West was using it to undermine China.
Some say China’s official angry response to the peace prize is being repeated during long police interrogations.
Activist lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said the deputy chief at a Beijing police station told him. "This is Western anti-Chinese forces conspiring to subvert the Chinese government."
Pu was held for three days.
The law firm that represents Liu said they haven’t been allowed to talk to his wife. Lawyer Mo Shaoping said when he invited her to the law firm to discuss whether to appeal her husband’s sentence, Liu Xia said police wouldn’t allow it.
The phone was then cut off.
However, she reported on Twitter that police want to take her "on a tour" out of Beijing, and away from the media attention.
Ding, the activist who founded the group Tiananmen Mothers to fight for the memory of those killed, including her son, had been warned before the peace prize not to give interviews. Her mobile and land phones in Beijing and the city of Wuxi, where she was last heard from, appeared to have been disconnected.
"The last time I talked to her," said Xu Jue, a member of the Tiananmen Mothers, was on the day that they learned about the peace prize. "We were so happy. We’re really worried she’s been taken away. When she was detained before, she would make contact. What if it’s worse this time?"
Police in Wuxi told the Associated Press said they would "look into" Ding’s apparent disappearance.
Prize winner Liu is a literary critic, author and university professor. In the 1980s, he called for democratic reforms and the end of one-party rule in China. He has been jailed repeatedly and currently is serving his fourth prison term, this time an 11-year term on charges of "inciting subversion of state power."
Liu was born in Changchun in 1955 to an intellectual family. In the 1980s, he wrote a series of academic essays, Critique on Choices – Dialogue with Li Zehou and Aesthetics and Human Freedom, which earned him fame in the academic field. The first essay criticized the philosophy of a prominent Chinese Communist leader Li Zehou.
Between 1988 and 1989, he was a visiting scholar at several universities outside of China, including Columbia University, the University of Oslo and the University of Hawaii.
During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests he was in the United States but decided to go back to China to join the movement. There it became obvious the government was not going to give in, he persuading students to leave the square, saving hundreds of lives.
He took refuge in the Australian embassy but could not bear to remain in a safe place while citizens and students who had taken part in the movement were being hunted down, arrested and executed. He was arrested while cycling in Beijing and spent the next 20 months in Qincheng prison.
It was a different Liu who left the prison: "My eyes were opened by the death of the martyrs and now, every time I open my mouth, I ask myself if I am worthy of them."
He was imprisoned again from May 1995 until January 1996 after calling on the government to admit its wrongdoings in the Tiananmen Square student protest.
Eight months later, he was jailed for three years from October 1996 until October 1999, charged with "disturbing the social order." When he was released in 1999, the government built a sentry station next to his home and his phone calls and internet connections were tapped.
In 2004 when he started to write a Human Right Report of China at home, his computer, letters and documents were confiscated by the government.
He once said that at his wife’s birthday, "her best friend brought two bottles of wines to my home but was blocked by the police to come. I ordered a cake and the police also rejected the man who delivered the cake to us.
"I quarreled with them and the police said, ‘it is for the sake of your security. We have had many bomb attacks in these days.’"
In 2004, the international group Reporters Without Borders honored Liu’s human rights work, awarding him the Foundation de France Prize as a defender of press freedom.
In December 2009, he was sentenced for 11 years for "spreading a message to subvert the country and authority." He is currently imprisoned in Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province.
"The government does not know how to handle Liu Xiaobo’s award," says Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer being subjected to a 24-hour police escort since he was released from the small hotel where he was kept incommunicado. "Government control over society has been tightened up."
But why did Liu receive the Nobel Peace Prize? And why do Communist authorities fear him and his friends?
Liu is the primary author of "Charter 08," a document that has shaken Chinese authorities and invigorated the Chinese pro-democracy movement.
"The publication of Charter 08 in China at the end of 2008 was a major event," writes author Feng Chongyi. "It is widely recognized as the Chinese human rights manifesto and a landmark document in China’s quest for democracy.
"It takes its name from Charter 77 written by intellectuals and activists in the former Czechoslovakia and borrows ideas and language from several international documents on human rights and democracy, including the Constitution of the United States, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the Universal Declaration Human Rights of the United Nations, and the reconciliatory approach of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as relevant Chinese documents throughout the modern era, including the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China."
Such concepts are not freely discussed in China. Just as in revolutionary France, ideas such as freedom and liberty are exciting to the populace. However, they are extremely threatening to the Communists clinging onto power.
"Charter 08 is a wide-ranging and comprehensive political reform program," writes Freng, "that embraces human rights, constitutional democracy and social policies for distributive justice."
Feng is a professor in China Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. He is author of numerous books including Peasant Consciousness and China and The Wisdom of Reconciliation: China’s Road to Democracy.
Part one of Charter 08, he writes, "is a ‘preamble,’ providing an overview of the Chinese democracy movement over the last century, identifying fundamental problems of current Communist rule in China, urging the regime to ‘embrace universal human values, join the mainstream of civilized nations, and build a democratic system’.
"Part two lays down five ‘fundamental concepts’ of freedom, human rights, equality, republicanism, democracy and constitutional rule as fundamental principles and defines these concepts according to the tenets of liberal democracy.
"Part three offers 19 specific recommendations calling for
· amending the constitution,
· separation and balance of powers,
· democratizing the lawmaking process,
· judicial independence,
· nonpartisan control of public institutions,
· protection of human rights,
· election of public officials,
· urban-rural equality,
· freedom of association,
· freedom of assembly,
· freedom of expression,
· freedom of religion,
· citizen education,
· protection of property,
· fiscal reform,
· social security,
· environmental protection and
· a federal republic."
It also calls for justice and a Truth Investigation Commission investigating the facts and responsibilities of past atrocities and injustices.
"Part four is a short ‘conclusion’ about China’s responsibility to humankind, appealing to all Chinese citizens to participate in the democratic movement and echoing the call in the preamble that human rights and democracy are vital for China as a major country of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights."
Such concepts are heresy in Communist China. The Communist Party clings to power with an iron fist, knowing that it must keep its 1.3 billion people in submission.
"Charter 08 categorically sets constitutional democracy as the goal for Chinese political development and peaceful reform as the means to achieve that goal," writes Feng.
Expressing such concepts is dangerous. That’s why Liu is in prison and his wife is under house arrest.
"Charter 08 is the most important collective expression of Chinese thought to emerge since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949," says Feng.
"It embodies a sincere invitation to both the government and the public for constructive interaction and negotiation to effect and manage a fundamental political change toward constitutional democracy.
"Despite the Communist Party’s official agenda for democratic reform and human rights, the current leadership lacks the confidence to directly engage the Charter 08 framers and signers in theoretical debate on the issues raised, or to launch all-out war against signatories of the document.
"After hesitating for one year, the Chinese authorities severely punished Liu, but at this writing have left other signatories alone, although most of the 303 original signatories were ‘summoned for interrogations.’
"The authorities have emphasized blocking circulation of the document and ‘punishing one as a warning to others’ to minimize the impact of Charter 08.
"This strategy has not succeeded in forcing one single signatory to withdraw, nor has it prevented more than 10,000 Chinese at home and abroad from adding their names to the document.
"However, the strategy of Chinese authorities has had a certain effect, at least for the time being, in leading many more who share the values and aspirations of Charter 08 to remain silent.
"In the long run, the proposals made in Charter 08 could serve as a guide for the emergence of a genuine Chinese democracy."
And that’s why Liu has received the Nobel Peace Prize.
He is a freedom fighter who deserves our prayers.