Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo cremated amid fears for wife's safety / PB Mehta: Liu Xiaobo showed us the possibility of a politics that rises above resentment / Nobel Lecture: I Have No Enemies / Liu Xiaobo and the Decline of China

Image result for Liu Xiaobo
You want to bury him
bury into the dirt

but you forget

he is a seed

(anonymous message from someone in China)

The Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiaobo has been cremated in north-eastern China, Chinese authorities have announced, amid growing fears for the safety of his wife, Liu Xia. The veteran dissident died on Thursday, aged 61, becoming the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since the 1935 recipient, German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, died under surveillance after years confined to Nazi concentration camps. Speaking at a press conference in the city of Shenyang, where Liu died, government spokesperson Zhang Qingyang said his cremation had taken place at a local funeral parlour following a “short mourning service” early on Saturday morning. 
Funeral ceremony for Liu Xiaobo, who died on Thursday of liver cancer at 61. His wife, Liu Xia, is on the right, wearing sunglasses.
Funeral ceremony for Liu Xiaobo. Photo: Shenyang government/Supplied

 “Liu’s body was cremated … in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs,” China’s official news agency, Xinhua, said in a brief dispatch. Xinhua claimed that both family members and friends had attended the dissident’s funeral – although friends and supporters have said they were barred from travelling to Shenyang by Chinese security services. 

The spokesman told reporters Liu’s wife, the poet and photographer Liu Xia, had been in attendance and had been given her husband’s ashes. She was in “very low spirits,” he added, according to AFP. 
Propaganda photos released by Chinese authorities showed mourners, including Liu Xia, gathered beside a casket that was ringed by pots of white chrysanthemums. Above what appeared to be the dead activist’s corpse a black banner read: “A farewell ceremony for Mr Liu Xiaobo”. Officials said Mozart’s Requiem was played.
As the revered democracy activist was cremated, friends of the couple said they were growing increasingly concerned about the well-being of Liu Xia. The 56-year-old has been living under heavy surveillance and in almost total isolation since her husband won the Nobel prize, in 2010, and had hoped to leave China along with Liu Xiaobo before his death. “We have lost touch with her now for three full days,” Jared Genser, a US human rights lawyer who represents her and her late husband, told the Guardian. “I’m incredibly concerned about her health and welfare.”

China News Service, a Communist party-controlled news agency, claimed on Friday that Liu Xia was “a free woman” who was deliberately shunning her friends and relatives because she wanted to grieve in peace. Zhang, the government spokesman, repeated those claims on Saturday as Liu’s cremation was announced. “Liu Xia is free,” he said, according to Reuters, without revealing her whereabouts. “I believe the relevant departments will protect Liu Xia’s rights according to the law,” Zhang added. 
According to AFP, Zhang claimed Liu Xia was “emotionally grieving” and did not want “too much outside interference”.  Genser rejected claims that Liu Xia was free as “a sick joke”. “It leaves me incredulous to think that the Chinese government would think that anybody would believe such a claim: that she is grieving and does not want to be disturbed. I mean, come on. That is just totally ridiculous.”  Genser added: “We all know the truth. The truth is clear as day. She has been under house arrest without charge or trial for seven years and even after her husband is dead that appears not to be good enough for the Chinese government.”

Meanwhile friends contradicted official claims that Liu Xiaobo’s friends had been permitted to attend his funeral. Activist Hu Jia said he did not know of a single friend who had been able to go.
Shang Baojun, a Chinese lawyer who represented Liu Xiaobo and was his friend, said he had not attended the funeral. “I know nothing about it,” he said by phone, before explaining that it was “not convenient” to talk – a common expression in China indicating that someone is coming under pressure from authorities to stay silent. Writing on Twitter, Mo Zhixu, another activist and friend, said he had not recognised any friends of the Lius in the photographs released by the government. “The party-state cannot even be bothered to be halfhearted about their acting in this play,” he wrote. 

The Global Times, a Communist party controlled tabloid, chose to mark Liu’s cremation with a vicious personal assault. “He was paranoid, naive and arrogant,” the newspaper said in an English-language editorial. “Chinese society opposes and despises him. “Deification of Liu by the west will be eventually overshadowed by China’s denial of him,” it added, branding the Nobel laureate “a disruptive player to China’s development theme”. 

Genser called for international pressure to help Liu Xia “escape this Kafkaesque nightmare that has been her life”. “My heart breaks for her. It is just terrible. We have to get her out. We can’t live in a world in which she is not free,” he said. 

In the course of my life, for more than half a century, June 1989 was the major turning point. Up to that point, I was a member of the first class to enter university when college entrance examinations were reinstated following the Cultural Revolution (Class of ‘'77). From BA to MA and on to PhD, my academic career was all smooth sailing. Upon receiving my degrees, I stayed on to teach at Beijing Normal University. As a teacher, I was well received by the students. At the same time, I was a public intellectual, writing articles and books that created quite a stir during the 1980s, frequently receiving invitations to give talks around the country, and going abroad as a visiting scholar upon invitation from Europe and America. What I demanded of myself was this: whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity. 

After that, because I had returned from the U.S. to take part in the 1989 Movement, I was thrown into prison for "the crime of counter‑revolutionary propaganda and incitement." I also lost my beloved lectern and could no longer publish essays or give talks in China. Merely for publishing different political views and taking part in a peaceful democracy movement, a teacher lost his lectern, a writer lost his right to publish, and a public intellectual lost the opportunity to give talks publicly. This is a tragedy, both for me personally and for a China that has already seen thirty years of Reform and Opening Up. 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.

Twenty years have passed, but the ghosts of June Fourth have not yet been laid to rest.. read more:

His sense of responsibility was quite stern: One had to take responsibility for one’s own fate, there was no point in blaming anyone else. A politics that rises above resentment, a politics without enemies and without hatred, was possible only if we stopped blaming others for our fate; that act of blaming itself betrayed our freedom. One had to embrace life in its totality and overcome it. He was a staunch defender of individuality and had deep-seated suspicion of any trace of conformity, or being absorbed in a larger mass. He was also preoccupied with being original, in a way he felt he had not been. His stringent cultural criticism had one abiding theme: He longed for the Chinese to acquire the ability to what he called “self-create.”

If the epilogue mentioned above is one short essay to read, his Nobel speech is another. It is remarkable for the moment where he thanks his wife Liu Xia, and on the love weighed down by such heavy political circumstances. But it also pointedly laid out a message for all regimes, not just China. “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.” In the nascent post-cultural revolution developments in China, Liu Xiaobo saw a lot of hope. But he never lost the sense that he was untimely. Xi Jinping’s clampdown has a grip on China. But Liu Xiabo knew that while politicians may write history, dissidents, poets and thinkers speak to eternity.

Autocracies are sometimes rich but never modern. Efficiency can mean doing dumb things quickly. Political control over economic resources is a recipe for corruption and capital misallocation. To this day Beijing treats its economy as an extension of state propaganda, manufacturing statistics and mistaking trophyism for development. The core mistake is to assume that values aren’t inputs... No nation that defames and imprisons its best people is going to become great. No country that is afraid to let a man such as Liu speak freely can possibly be described as strong. Regimes that are fearsome are brittle, too... Beijing moved quickly to censor stories about him and expressions of sympathy on the internet. But at least one pointed anonymous message got out to the Wall Street Journal reporter Nicole Hong. China boosters, take note:
You want to bury him
bury into the dirt
but you forget
he is a seed.