Liu Xiaobo died on July 13, 2017, a victim of intolerance by a fearful Chinese government that imprisoned him for his leadership role in writing and organizing Charter 08. That historic document, which was published on December 10, 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was signed at great risk by more than 10,000 Chinese citizens. Inspired by Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, it envisioned an informal association of Chinese citizens, open-ended in size but united by a determination to promote democratization and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Liu Xiaobo was hopeful about China’s future. He famously said in the closing statement at his trial, “China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme.” Yet he also feared that if China didn’t democratize but instead continued to rise as a dictatorship, “the results will not only be another catastrophe for the Chinese people but likely also a disaster for the spread of liberal democracy in the world.” Liu’s legacy remains profoundly relevant in our troubled world, and his courageous battle for democracy and against repression merits continued remembrance and celebration.
Perry Link, University of California, Riverside
Xiaorong Li (below), Scholar
Xiao Qiang, China Digital Times
Louisa Greve, National Endowment for Democracy
Andrew Nathan, Columbia University
Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy.