photo of Liu Xiaobo and Doll (European Press Photo Agency)
Reflection by Mary E. Latela, 7/15/2017
He is pictured with a doll designed and crafted by his beloved wife, Liu Xia.
Liu was a scholar, a writer, whose inspiration forced him to call out human rights violations in China. Nick Kristof of the New York Times notes: “The Mandela of our age is dead, and Liu Xiaobo will at least now find peace after decades of suffering outrageous mistreatment by the Chinese authorities.” He met and married the artist, Liu Xia, whose dolls, like suffering babies, cry out for justice.
He left Columbia University in NYC to support the young people’s revolt in Tiananmen Square. He remained in China to try to plant the seeds of democracy; thus began his series of arrests and times in prison.
He developed liver cancer, which might have been treated in another setting, but the government said “No”, so Liu Xiaobo died slowly and in great pain, as his wife comforted him. He wrote poetry to her: “Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body … and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning.”
Chinese officials have the notion that if the people have no grave site, they can erase the memories of men who tried to instill basic human rights. Liu was stripped of his own rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and an empty chair was placed where he would have sat, where the message of praise from the Novel committee would have been read.
Liu’s ashes were brought by his widow, his brothers, her brothers, and only a few others, by boat to a place by the sea where colorful blossoms were set upon the sea then his ashes were poured in. It was a nasty way to keep Liu Xia from having a grave to visit. Tourists will not have a grave to visit.
What the “officials” lack is sensitivity to the human spirit, people who hold onto the memory of their loved ones, always. Oppression does not end with another harsh gesture; in fact, when even one person knows, oppression loses.
The question that keeps me up at night is this… What ever happened to the USA’s commitment to fight and put an end to human rights violations? No one mentioned Liu’s name at the recent Presidential visit to China, and that is simply another reinforcement of the belief that a man who is gone is forgotten. Instead of calling to task the Chinese government for beating and imprisoning its people, the world is pleased to buy cheap goods made in oppressive factories where children and adults work countless hours for almost nothing.
I know that we were once instilled by a zeal for freeing people who are oppressed, for individuals and communities, victims of cruelty, simply for existing. Can we embolden our hearts once more to reach out to these “innocent victims” who are truly our brothers and sisters?