Imprisoned Chinese human rights activist and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was remembered by a series of witnesses offering heartfelt testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China this week to mark one year since Liu’s Dec. 10, 2010 award ceremony and to examine China’s ongoing crackdown against human rights advocates.
Experts testifying at the hearing addressed the Nobel Laureate’s long history of human rights advocacy and the influence of the prestigious award within China.
Pastor Bob Fu, Founder and President, ChinaAid Association:
“The fact that human rights, the rule of law and religious freedom in China have all seriously deteriorated in 2011 is already well known to all. Therefore, this hearing on the anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo is highly significant.
“The persecution in the first 11 months of 2011 occurred in 11 provinces, one municipality under direct central government jurisdiction and three autonomous regions – that is, in nearly half of China’s regions and cities. Nearly 30 house churches were persecuted, affecting more than 1,500 believers. The number of Christians arrested or detained exceeds 300.”
Perry Link, Professor Emeritus, East Asian Studies Princeton University, currently teaching at the University of California, Riverside:
“Fortunately for us, his (Liu Xiaobo’s) readers, he also has a habit of writing free from fear. Most Chinese writers today, including many of the best ones, write with political caution in the backs of their minds and with a shadow hovering over their fingers as they pass across a keyboard.
“We know very little of his prison conditions. Chinese Human Rights Defenders has reported that—as of late 2010—he was sharing a cell with five other inmates… The other five are allowed weekly visits from family members, but Liu is allowed only monthly visits. Whether or not these visits can be from his wife depends on his behavior, on hers, and on the political “sensitivity” of the times….Liu eats low-quality prison food. His cell mates are allowed to pay the prison to get specially prepared, better food, but Liu is denied this option. He has chronic hepatitis and stomach problems, but receives only cursory medical attention.”
Li Xiaorong, Independent Scholar and Human Rights Activist:
“So far, all hopes have been dashed if anyone had expected that the Chinese government would take some positive steps toward honoring the spirit of the Peace Prize and improving the human rights situation in China as a result of the Nobel Committee’s historical decision.
“In February, within a few weeks (of the calls for Tunisian style ‘Jasmine Revolution’ protests last February), a total of 52 individuals were criminally detained, at least 24 were subjected to enforced disappearance, 5 were sent to Re-education through Labor (RTL) facilities, 4 were placed under illegal residential surveillance outside of their homes, and 2 were held in psychiatric hospitals. Many of these activists, well-known for their fearless outspokenness, re-emerged several months later from disappearances tight-lipped about their mistreatment, torture and they appeared shaken. As we speak, in a revision of the Chinese Criminal Procedural Law under consideration in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the government is trying to legalize such secret detentions or enforced disappearances.
“The U.S. government should be consistent in upholding the principles of freedom and human rights, whether the violations occur in Libya, Syria, Burma, Iran, or China…. President Obama should demonstrate his moral leadership to obtain the immediate and unconditional release of his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo.”
Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy:
“Finally, regarding the influence of the Nobel Peace Prize, I think it deepened the Chinese government’s legitimacy crisis. For one thing, as The Economist noted at the time, Beijing’s ‘disastrous’ response to the Prize betrayed for the whole world to see ‘the government’s insecurity at home.’
“Liu Xiaobo has said that China serves as ‘a blood transfusion machine’ for smaller dictatorships in North Korea, Cuba and elsewhere. In addition to providing economic and political support to such regimes, it shares tactics bi-laterally with autocrats such as Lukashenko in Belarus, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and Chavez in Venezuela; and it cooperates multilaterally with Russia and the Central Asian countries through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”
Chai Ling, Founder, All Girls Allowed:
“Does this mean that spiritual and political reform cannot come to China? By no means. In fact, I come here today not only to remember Liu Xiaobo but to proclaim a message of hope. Something very special and powerful is already happening inside China and worldwide regarding China.
“In contrast, the lack of real action from U.S. leaders on China’s human rights atrocities has been a major problem for years, throughout various administrations. Beliefs such as ‘We cannot let human rights interfere with our economic crisis and security issues in dealing with China’ have been the root causes for the deteriorating of China’s human rights conditions and the decline of America.”
Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair, Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International:
“This summer… PEN sent a delegation to Beijing to gauge the level of repression and the current climate for freedom of expression, and deliver a message of solidarity to our colleagues. What we found in the weeks leading up to the trip and, more importantly, on the ground in China, was a mixture of absurd restrictions and repression on the one hand, and positive signs and hope on the other.”
Harry Wu, Exec. Director, Laogai Research Foundation & Laogai Museum:
“It has been one year since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and now, just as then, he is still in jail. In 1960 I too was put in China’s Laogai prison camps because of my ideas, and I was there for 19 years. Fifty years later, China’s regime has not changed how it handles dissenting opinions. I hope that today’s hearing will draw renewed attention to Liu’s case and remind the world what China does to those who dare to talk peacefully about democracy.
“Last year I was in Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. Although many Chinese tried to attend the ceremony in support of Liu, they were blocked from leaving China by the government. Not even his wife, Liu Xia, was there to fill his empty chair. Even so, I was very happy that a Chinese dissident was finally awarded the prize. It is a sign that the world will not sit quietly while the CCP cracks down on freedom of speech.”
Reggie Littlejohn, President, Women’s Rights, commenting on prisoner Chen Guangcheng:
“It is a truly humbling opportunity to testify about one of the most courageous individuals, not only in China, but also in the world: blind, self-taught lawyer, Chen Guangcheng… .”
“November 12, 2011 was Chen’s 40th birthday. Although no one knew for sure whether Chen was dead or alive, brave citizens from many areas of China attempted to visit Chen’s village to wish him a happy birthday. All of them were turned back from the village, some violently, by thugs and plain-clothes police.
“Finally, just this weekend, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers received a credible report that Chen is indeed alive. In fact, according to a key activist in China, the conditions of Chen’s detention have improved slightly.”
To read statements and the testimony of witnesses, please click here.
Dec. 8 is the one-year mark of the passage of a Smith resolution, H. Res. 1717, lauding the struggles of the Tiananmen Square survivor and freedom activist serving an 11-year prison term. Smith (NJ-04) chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on the People’s Republic of China, a congressionally-mandated, bipartisan panel made up of Members of the House and Senate and Presidential appointees serving in the Obama Administration.
Other well known political prisoners were also discussed, including Chen Guangcheng, who is under house arrest and barred from outside contact, and Gao Zhisheng, whose whereabouts are unknown. Smith led a congressional in 2010 effort to nominate both men and Liu for the Nobel prize to be joint recipients. Only Liu was selected.