In 2009, Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years for advocating peaceful regime change in China. Recently, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in honor of his non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Chinese government opposed this action, censoring all information regarding it. Doug Stiffler, associate professor of history, explains further:
What does this event look like to the typical Chinese person?
The typical Chinese person neither knows nor cares. That sounds bad, but I am afraid it is true; however, some Chinese people know and care deeply and are even encouraged by it.
How could one find out who Liu Xiaobo is?
The Gate of Heavenly Peace is a documentary that talks about his role in the Tiananmen Square protests. Go to YouTube and look for pieces of the documentary to get a sense of who he is.
Do you think he knows he has won?
Yes, he does know because the New York Times reported that his wife was allowed in to see him in jail and told him, and he said it should be dedicated to the spirits of those who died in 1989.
Will Western regimes use this event to put more pressure on China for democracy?
Yes, it will shine a spotlight on Liu as an imprisoned prisoner of conscience. The Chinese constitution guarantees free speech and the right to petition, but these rights are not respected in practice. It will encourage democratic movements in China, and it might help him personally, but it is doubtful that Western pressure will have any decisive influence on change in China. Change [in China] must come from within.
Why else is this event such a big deal?
It is the shadow of 1989. I was in college when the Tiananmen Square protests took place. It was a hopeful time and then it was a terrible time. The state made a very successful effort to whitewash it out of historical memory, creating historical amnesia in a whole generation of Chinese. This frankly is a blow against that historical amnesia. With the Internet, you cannot look up Liu Xiaobo directly, but there are ways around the great Chinese firewall to find out about Tiananmen Square and Liu Xiaobo for those who are interested. People will wonder who Liu Xiaobo is and find out about him.
-Aaron Adams ’12, Juniata Online Journalist