- Documents on Democracy
Essayist and critic Liu Xiaobo, a past president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center and editor of Democratic China magazine, was sentenced in Beijing to eleven years' imprisonment on 25 December 2009 on charges of "inciting subversion of state power." He was a leading signatory of Charter 08. Below are excerpts of his statement before his sentencing:
June 1989 was the major turning point in my 50 years on life's road. Before that, I was a member of the first group of students after restoration of the college entrance examination after the Cultural Revolution (1977); my career was a smooth ride, from undergraduate to grad student and through to PhD. After graduation I stayed on as a lecturer at Beijing Normal University. On the podium, I was a popular teacher, well received by students. I was also a public intellectual: in the 1980s I published articles and books that created an impact. I was frequently invited to speak in different places, and invited to go abroad to Europe and the U.S. as a visiting scholar. What I required of myself was to live with honesty, responsibility, and dignity both as a person and in my writing. Subsequently, because I had returned from the U.S. to take part in the 1989 movement, I was imprisoned for "counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement to crime," losing the platform I loved; I was never again allowed publish or speak in public in China. Simply for expressing divergent political views and taking part in a peaceful and democratic movement, a teacher lost his podium, a writer lost the right to publish, and a public intellectual lost the chance to speak publicly. This was a sad thing, both for myself as an individual and, after three decades of reform and opening, for China.
Thinking about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have all been linked with the courts; the two opportunities I had to speak in public have been provided by trials held in the People's Intermediate [End Page 177] Court in Beijing, one in January 1991 and one now. Although the charges on each occasion were different, they were in essence the same, both being crimes of expression.
Twenty years on, the innocent souls of June Fourth are yet to rest in peace, and I, who had been drawn into the path of dissidence by the passions of June Fourth, after leaving the Qincheng Prison in 1991 lost the right to speak openly in my own country, and could only do so through overseas media, and hence was monitored for many years; placed under surveillance (May 1995–January 1996); educated through labour (October 1996–October 1999s), and now once again am thrust into the dock by enemies in the regime. But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my "June Second hunger strike declaration"—I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentenced me, are my enemies. While I'm unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities. …
For hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.
As we all know, reform and opening brought about development of the state and change in society. In my view, it began with abandoning "taking class struggle as the key link," which had been the ruling principle of the Mao era. We committed ourselves instead to economic development and social harmony. The process of abandoning the "philosophy of struggle" was one of gradually diluting the mentality of enmity, eliminating the psychology of...