China’s liberals quietly fight efforts to erase Liu Xiaobo legacy — Plus: “Murder without spilling blood” — The Chinese Communist Party’s history of denying medical treatment to its enemies


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In this Jan. 12, 2010 file photo, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong hold a candlelight vigil in support of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.


Pro-democracy activists continue their sit-in demanding the release of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 12, 2017.Bobby Yip

SHENYANG, China (Reuters) – As the hospital treating Liu Xiaobao says his organs and breathing have begun to fail from cancer, few in China outside a small circle of dissidents know about the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and his lifetime pursuit of liberal democratic reform.

Even other patients at the First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang, where Liu is being treated, seem not to know they are sharing the facilities with a world famous dissident.

When Reuters visited the floor where friends say Liu is being treated, visitors for other patients on the same ward seemed confused and asked why there were new procedures when security questioned them and checked their IDs.

Liu Xiaobo Nobel Peace: A policeman standing next to a poster showing Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

Nothing has appeared in Chinese-language official media since Liu was diagnosed with cancer in late May. Searches for “Liu Xiaobo” on Chinese social media show no results.

China’s foreign ministry answers questions from international media at its daily briefing with the standard line: China is a country ruled by law and the case is an internal affair; other countries should not meddle. Even that line is missing from the official transcripts of the briefings on the ministry’s website.

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, is the only publication that regularly writes articles about Liu, in English, and usually to rebuff international criticism.

The paper has cast Liu as an outsider marginalized from society whose cause has failed inside China.

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A member of the Australian Tibetan community places a candle near a banner during a candlelight vigil for the Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore

It was “overseas dissidents” who are the most active in “hyping the issue” and are trying to “boost their image by ‘deifying’ Liu,” the Global Times said in a Monday editorial. “Western mainstream society is much less enthusiastic than before in interfering with China’s sovereign affairs,” it said.

Charter 08

Liu was the co-author of a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, which attracted more than 10,000 signatures online before the authorities deleted the document from internet pages and chatrooms. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, a year after he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion.

Charter ’08, issued in 2008, reflected an apparent shift in China at the time toward becoming more open to liberal ideals, said Beijing-based historian and political commentator Zhang Lifan. That changed when Xi Jinping came to power in 2013.

“Since (Liu) was sentenced, peaceful transformation as a route for change has essentially been blocked off by the party. Since the new administration came into office, the party is moving in the opposite direction,” he said.

Hu Jia, a well-known Beijing-based dissident and friend of Liu’s, says few people in China know anything about him or his work.

“The reality is that if you are on the streets of Beijing and you stop a hundred people, to have one know who Liu Xiaobo is would be a great result,” he said.

Pro-democracy activists stage a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017.Bobby Yip

“Chinese society, due to internet censorship and being cut off from the rest of the world, essentially does not get to hear our (dissident) voices. Protesting voices on Weibo are almost not existent these days,” Hu said.

But Xi has helped the dissident movement by locking up a peaceful protester and letting him die in detention. “The last state to do that was Nazi Germany,” Hu says.

Carl von Ossietzky, a pacifist who died in 1938 in Nazi Germany’s Berlin, was the last Nobel Peace Prize winner to live out his dying days under state surveillance.

‘Need to Act’

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FILE PHOTO: A monument of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong is seen in front of a building of the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang, where friends of sick dissident Liu Xiaobo say he is being treated, in Shenyang, China July 10, 2017.Christian Shepherd/File Photo

While China’s censorship makes it difficult to assess Liu’s support, he is a “hero” for many liberals in China, even if few will speak out for him, a Chinese editor at an online publication said, declining to be named.

“I am really not sure if it’s accurate to claim he is unknown to the public, (or if) people are just too scared to show their knowledge (of Liu),” the editor said.

Despite the restrictions, internet posters have written in support of Liu and his cause, using variations on his name to avoid the censors.

“When it comes to freedom, comes to constitutional government, we have talked too much, now we need to act,” read one comment on the micro-blogging platform Weibo. “Situations like Liu Xiaobo’s are still a worry, but we nevertheless need people to act, bravely face the risk of death and act.”

Pro-democracy activists stage a sit-in protest demanding the release of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The post echoed something Liu wrote in April 1989 when he returned from studying in the United States to take part in the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square: intellectuals often “just talk”, they “do not do”.

“He’s leaving, but we cannot see, cannot speak, cannot act” said the headline of an article shared as an image on the popular messaging platform, WeChat, a method that can slow down the censors. In the article, three people born in the 1980s were interviewed about Liu.

“I will see him as a very important symbol, (but) people like him fail to get attention from common folk, and given his plight as an unknown prisoner of conscience, there is little to say,” one person identified as L said in the article.

Albert Ho, who heads the Hong Kong Alliance organizing protests in Liu’s support, said China’s efforts to erase Liu from people’s memory will fail.

“Don’t underestimate the power of the internet … And don’t underestimate the people. I have seen many episodes where suddenly the hero gets degraded into the devil and the devil becomes the hero,” he said, referring to previous shifts in China’s political system.

“People are not living in an open society in China so you never know,” he said.

Additional reporting by Venus Wu in HONG KONG and Beijing news room; Editing by Bill Tarrant


See also:


“Murder without spilling blood”: the Chinese Communist Party’s history of denying medical treatment to its enemies

.Activists send postcards to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

“Xiaobo, we are with you.” (EPA/Alex Hofford)
July 11, 2017

When news emerged that Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was gravely ill in hospital with late-term liver cancer, many wondered whether the Chinese Communist Party had purposely delayed treatment for the vocal critic of the regime.

Indeed, the party has a history of intentionally denying or delaying adequate medical treatment to such critics, or people deemed “enemies of the state.” During the era of chairman Mao Zedong, many of China’s intellectual elites were sent to labor camps and jails, where harsh conditions and the denial of health care often led to poor health and early death. Those who survived suffered from chronic illnesses and mental trauma that lasted for the rest of their lives.

Veteran journalist Dai Huang, who was sent to labor camps for 20 years after being branded an “anti-party” element for criticizing Mao’s cult of personality, wrote in his memoir Nine Deaths and One Life of his own experience of starvation, injury, sickness, and denial of medical treatment. Dai, who died in 2016, also chronicled the brutal treatment of artists, academics, and journalists who perished in the camps.

Dai wrote that even when these political outcasts were sent to rural clinics, staff were often too afraid to treat them, wary of being accused of sympathizing with “class enemies.” When he suffered a serious leg injury in an accident, his supervisor accused him of faking illness. In his elderly years, Dai suffered from hepatitis and cancer of the colon and rectum, illnesses that his family attributed to malnutrition and harsh conditions in the camps.

The return of “class enemies”

Senior members of the Communist Party who were seen by Mao as a threat were not immune to such maltreatment. After president Liu Shaoqi was purged in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution, the one-time designated successor of Mao was put under house arrest and condemned as “a traitor to the revolution,” “enemy agent,” and China’s foremost “capitalist-roader.” According to historical accounts, he was frequently beaten in public denunciation sessions and was for a long time denied medication for diabetes and pneumonia. In October 1969 he was taken from Beijing to Henan province, where he died in isolation a month later.

He Long (link in Chinese), a military leader and vice premier, spent the last two-and-a-half years of his life under house arrest, where he was deprived of food and water, made to sleep on the floor with no blankets and pillows, and refused medication for his chronic diabetes. When he was finally sent to hospital, doctors were ordered not to give him the best medicine. He died in 1969, after a glucose injection caused complications for his diabetes. According to some reports, he condemned the authorities’ treatment as “murder without spilling blood.”

Tao Zhu, another top party leader who was put under house arrest during the Cultural Revolution, was diagnosed with cancer of the gall bladder but was refused medical treatment until it was too late, author Jung Chang chronicled in her book Wild Swans. He died in 1969.

With the launch of the “reform and opening up” era in the 1980s, the brutal class-based ideology of the party was in gradual decline, as Liu Xiaobo also noted—only to make a comeback in recent years under president Xi Jinping, as government critics languishing in custody with ill health died under suspicious circumstances.

Activist Cao Shunli died in hospital in March 2014, three weeks after she fell into a coma under unknown circumstances and was granted medical parole. She was detained by police six months earlier for staging protests on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Her lawyer said she was denied treatment for tuberculosis and liver disease, and her family, denied visits while she was alive, said her body appeared bruised and swollen.

In July 2015, Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in a Chinese prison after having served 13 years on separatism and terror charges. His family applied for medical parole, citing a heart condition, but were ignored.

The rhetorical foundation of Xi’s increasingly repressive rule can be traced to a 2012 article (link in Chinese) in state mouthpiece People’s Daily, which cautioned against the danger of five categories of people—dissidents, rights lawyers, underground religious followers, opinion leaders on the internet, and the underprivileged—accusing them of “infiltrating” Chinese society to push for regime change. It was reminiscent of the so-called “five black categories” of the Cultural Revolution—landlords, rich peasants and capitalists, counter-revolutionaries, “bad elements,” and rightists—who were often violently beaten up by Mao’s Red Guards and refused treatment by medical staff.

In critical condition

Since he was “released” on medical parole in June, Liu Xiaobo has been transferred to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. As Liu’s life hangs in the balance, Chinese authorities are pulling out all the stops to reject accusations that he has been denied adequate health care, in an apparent response to international criticism.

China Jailed Nobel Nobel laureate
Photos on the website of the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang show foreign doctors meeting with Liu Xiaobo at the hospital. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The government openly invited foreign doctors to treat Liu last week. Official websites say Liu has been undergoing annual health check-ups since he was jailed in 2009, and that Liu has been treated by the country’s top cancer expert since his cancer was diagnosed in early June. A video was posted on YouTube—which is blocked in China—showing Liu receiving medical treatment, including a scan, and captured him saying on camera that he “greatly appreciated” the care he was offered. Authorities also contend that Liu already had a history of hepatitis B before he was imprisoned this time round.

Yet Chinese authorities continue to deny him the freedom to be treated abroad. German and American doctors who visited Liu said they believed that he could travel, contrary to claims by the Chinese government.

In 2009, in his final statement to the court before his 11-year jail sentence was announced—which was also read out in the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo—Liu said he still held out hopes for his country. He said compared to his previous jail terms, he experienced more humane treatment during this period of incarceration, and said that was evidence of the decline of the Maoist philosophy of class struggle:

“The weakening of the enemy mentality (in Chinese society) has paved the way for the regime to gradually accept the universality of human rights… It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China.”

The First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang said on Monday (July 11) that Liu was in critical condition. A statement on the hospital website said his tumor has grown, and that there are other complications including bleeding from his liver, peritonitis, acute renal insufficiency, and a drop in blood pressure.

As he lies in the hospital in Shenyang, denied the chance to receive the best treatment abroad, Liu’s hopes of a free China die with him.



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2 Responses to “China’s liberals quietly fight efforts to erase Liu Xiaobo legacy — Plus: “Murder without spilling blood” — The Chinese Communist Party’s history of denying medical treatment to its enemies”

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.

  2. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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