China’s shame: First No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate to die in chains since Nazi era

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS -

Many say great he­roes in the strug­gle for free­dom have come and gone, that their mar­tyr­dom is now some­thing for his­tory and text­books, fig­ures like Martin Luther King Jr., Ma­hatma Ghandi or Abra­ham Lin­coln. That’s not true. On Thurs­day, in a univer­sity hos­pi­tal room in the Chi­nese city of Shenyang, some 400 miles north­east of Bei­jing, this na­tion of 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple lost Liu Xiaobo, an im­pris­oned No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate and China’s most fa­mous hu­man rights hero. The di­ag­no­sis of Liu’s liver can­cer had been de­layed by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties un­til it was too ad­vanced for mean­ing­ful treat­ment. “Can’t op­er­ate, can’t do ra­dio­ther­apy, can’t do chemo­ther­apy,” his house- ar­rested wife, Liu Xia, said.

Even then, the 61- year- old Liu was kept un­der con­stant guard in the hos­pi­tal and de­nied last­minute med­i­cal trans­fer to ad­vanced care in Ger­many or the U. S. The gov­ern­ment of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping suc­ceeded in its vig­i­lance — and fears — at keep­ing Liu from speak­ing out, even frail and fail­ing on his deathbed.

China has earned a ter­ri­ble place in his­tory through its ac­tions. Nazi Ger­many was the last regime to hold a No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate in cus­tody un­til death, the Ger­man paci­fist Carl von Ossi­et­zky, who died of mal­treat­ment in 1938.

The revered ac­tivist Liu had com­mit­ted his life to free­dom, leav­ing a vis­it­ing schol­ar­ship in Amer­ica to join protests at Tianan­men Square in 1989, where he held a hunger strike in sol­i­dar­ity with stu­dents. Liu ne­go­ti­ated free pas­sage out of the square af­ter the shoot­ing started, sav­ing stu­dents’ lives. He spent 21 months in prison for that, los­ing his lec­tur­ing po­si­tion. Later, de­spite chances to leave China, Liu re­mained. In 2008, he was the first to sign a brazen man­i­festo call­ing for broader free­doms in China. In re­sponse, he was sen­tenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison. While he was locked away, China con­tin­ued its growth into a global power un­der Xi’s leader- ship. The coun­try has be­come so crit­i­cal on the world stage that pres­i­dents Barack Obama and Trump, with other world lead­ers, shrank from pub­licly de­fend­ing Liu. Even Thurs­day, hours af­ter the ac­tivist died, Trump stood be­fore re­porters prais­ing Xi, say­ing he is a “great man. He’s a fine per­son. ... He loves China. He wants to do what’s right for China.”

There is noth­ing great about an au­thor­i­tar­ian leader who per­se­cutes a man of peace to death. And it was Liu Xiaobo who loved China and wanted to do right by it. So pow­er­ful was his vi­sion, that Liu would have been the first to say that his own death is merely a pause in that quest.

“I firmly be­lieve that China’s po­lit­i­cal progress will not stop,” Liu said in a state­ment be­fore his im­pris­on­ment. “There is no force that can put an end to the hu­man quest for free­dom, and China will in the end be­come a na­tion ruled by law, where hu­man rights reign supreme.”

On that day, China will be great.

AP Liu Xiaobo

“There is no force that can put an end to the hu­man quest for free­dom, and China will in the end be­come a na­tion ruled by law, where hu­man rights reign supreme.”

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