Letter to the European People

By 石扉客
 | 九月
24, 2010

 I am here to urge your support of this year’s
Nobel Peace Prize being bestowed upon the founder of China’s
Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo. 

In spite of Liu Xiaobo’s many friends and supporters, I came to
know him quite late, and we first met personally only a few years
ago. In the mid-1980s, when Liu Xiaobo rose to prominence within
the literary world, I was a visiting research fellow at Oxford, and
became familiar with his ideas through Chinese periodicals
published overseas. Contrary to the view held by many, what brought
Liu such attention at the time wasn’t merely the sharpness of his
writing or his pointed critiques, but also how thorough he was in
his thinking and how much more influential his criticisms were of
mainstream ideology and dogma in China than those of other

Throughout the student-led democracy movement of 1989, I had the
opportunity to observe Liu Xiaobo. He had been lecturing abroad for
quite some time, but when signs of suppression began to appear and
others began making arrangements to flee overseas, Liu Xiaobo
instead chose to discontinue his academic pursuits and return to
Beijing to immerse himself in the struggle for democracy. On the
nights of June 3rd and 4th, I was in Tiananmen Square, not far from
the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Liu Xiaobo, along with three
other intellectuals, was taking part in the student hunger strike;
it was they, who, on the early morning of the 4th, convinced the
students to peacefully evacuate the Square and begin discussion
with the soldiers suppressing them, negotiating a smooth
withdrawal. I remember clearly the difficulty and pain Liu Xiaobo
and his comrades-in-arms— raised as they had been with the most
radical type of an education — experienced in reaching this
decision, one which only later was understood to have saved the
lives of several hundred students. 

Liu Xiaobo’s involvement in the 1989 democracy movement illustrates
his transformation from an eminent cultural critic to public
intellectual concerned with social and political problems and human
rights activist. His activities in 1989 can be seen as formative in
the entirety of his following writings and other works,
characterized by an unwavering bravery and refusal to back down in
the face of danger and suppression, by the pursuit and defense of
human rights, humanism, peace and other universal values and,
finally, adherence to the practice of rational dialogue, compromise
and non-violence. 

For many years, Liu Xiaobo has been the most representative figure
and foremost organizer in mainland China’s struggle for human
rights and democracy. He has been at the forefront of protests made
in support of writers and intellectuals imprisoned for their work,
in appeals made for farmers and urban residents deprived of land
and home, in advocating for protection of the religious and
cultural rights of ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, and in
fostering constructive dialogue toward seeing peaceful coexistence
between Han and all ethnic minorities. In a series of protests
aimed at upholding the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens,
Liu Xiaobo placed consistent emphasis on the fact that the rights
and freedoms of all Chinese citizens are protected both by the
Chinese constitution and in law, as well as a series of United
Nations and international declarations and covenants signed by the
Chinese government which safeguard human and civil rights. Liu
placed particular emphasis on seeing the Chinese government’s
obligation and responsibility to abide by its own constitution and
laws as well as international covenants as commitments to both the
Chinese people and the international

In launching and signing Charter 08 in 2008, Liu Xiaobo’s intent
was to reaffirm, with the Chinese government already recognizing
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and having signed the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that these
are the norms with regard to interaction between the Chinese people
and the Chinese government: to be a qualified and responsible
member of the international community would require China to adopt
the universal values embodied within these two documents. For this,
Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned, his third arrest as a result of striving
for freedom and democracy in China. On Christmas Day, 2009, Liu
Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In his final statement
to the court, Liu Xiaobo said that he had neither enemies nor hate;
to those who kept him under surveillance and arrested him, to the
police who interrogated him and to the public attorneys who
prosecuted and judge who sentenced him, the message Liu Xiaobo felt
it most important to convey was that despite their various roles
leading to his imprisonment, he considered none of them his

As a political theorist and public intellectual also concerned with
social and political problems and the defense of human rights, as
well as a signatory to Charter 08, I strongly feel the need to
point out that in the judgment read by the court which sentenced
Liu Xiaobo, evidence cited to prove Liu’s guilt included his
participation in Charter 08, that he collected signatures for it,
and even the content of the Charter itself—naked provocation of the
universal values held by humankind, common norms held by the
international community, and especially of the Chinese people

As I see it, the Nobel Peace Prize both embodies and represents the
core values of civilized society: respect for life and faith, the
sanctity of the individual and the right to express one’s self.
Given that Liu Xiaobo and many others signatories of Charter 08
have faced persecution and oppression merely for reaffirming these
values, the blatant challenge they face behooves a response from
the civilized world; to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize upon Liu
Xiaobo is one of the strongest responses which could be sent. This
would, clearly and unambiguously, reaffirm the values held most
dearly by humankind, serve as monumental support for the struggle
for the freedom and democracy which China’s 1.3 billion people
lack, and would mark a major step in defense of world peace.
Chinese authorities are able to destroy this country’s constitution
and trample upon its laws wantonly, which is why external voices,
voices from the international community, are needed to make Chinese
authorities pay heed. Bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize upon Liu
Xiaobo would serve as indirect opposition to the current state of
affairs, as well as a both authoritative and effective

Liu Xiaobo’s ideas and actions, in my view, are entirely congruous
to the actions and ideas held by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi; all have
endeavored to use tactics of non-violence in effecting gradual
change, of persuasion and compromise in upholding human rights and
in making the transition toward a peaceful society. With protest
movements now taking place all across China within every community
and at every level, it is imperative we remain vigilant in
preventing violent trends from taking hold. Awarding Liu Xiaobo the
Nobel Peace Prize would have just such an effect: people struggling
for human rights in China and around the world would find hope and
strength in rational, non-violent resistance, and see anew the
possibility of putting violence and authoritarian rule where they
both belong—in the past and behind us all. 

Cordially Yours,

 Xu Youyu 

Philosopher and professor with the Chinese Academy of Social

Holder of the Olof Palme Chair, Sweden, 2001-2002