China: Was Liu Xiaobo a patriot or a patsy?
China has earned a grim place in history with its mistreatment of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, said The Globe and Mail (Canada) in an editorial. The 61-year-old Chinese thinker and dissident died of liver cancer under guard in a hospital last week, after authorities refused to let him go abroad for treatment. “The only other Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody was imprisoned by Nazi Germany.” Liu had spent much of the past three decades in Chinese prisons. He was first detained in 1989, for his part in the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests. Liu’s final period of imprisonment began in 2008, when he was locked up for his role in writing the Charter 08 manifesto, which “called for such dangerous innovations as free speech, freedom of religion, an independent judiciary, and democratic elections.” After Liu was awarded the Nobel in 2010, the government in Beijing blocked Chinese internet users from searching for his name or the word “Nobel.” The regime remains so afraid of Liu’s “words, his ideas, and his hope” that following his death, it even had his body cremated and his ashes scattered at sea, depriving his supporters of a memorial site.
Liu’s death “is a tragedy, for China and the world,” said the South China Morning Post (China). To Beijing, Liu was a threat to one-party rule. Chinese leaders through the centuries have always feared open debate, “thinking it leads to disputes and then chaos.” Officials in Beijing believe that only they can solve China’s many challenges, through economic policy. “There may be other ways, though, necessitating discussion and debate. Shutting people out by silencing them is no solution.” The authorities couldn’t shake Liu from his pro-democracy beliefs through years of persecution. His death will not diminish “the desire of Chinese for greater participation in politics.”
Enough with the deification of this convicted criminal, said the Global Times (China). The Western media has heaped laurels on Liu, likening him to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. In fact, he was a “paranoid, naïve, and arrogant” political agitator who wanted to overthrow China’s successful political system. Like others who call themselves dissidents, Liu was “a victim, led astray by the West.” During the decades that he attempted to stir up trouble here, China was making great strides economically, lifting millions out of poverty. “Western forces and dissidents like Liu are disrupters of China’s steady progress.”
Both the West and the Chinese authorities have misinterpreted Liu, said Alex Lo in the South China Morning Post. While foreigners emphasize his support for democracy and human rights, that was “only one facet of his deep and complex thinking.” He was also a critic of Western capitalism. His beliefs came from his deep knowledge of “the full range of Chinese literature and culture,” stretching back thousands of years. Liu’s “reformist impulse and patriotism were deeply Chinese” and reflected his devotion “to his country and its people.” ■