The economic benefits of “state capitalism” give the system a thick, moral veneer; but even that cannot conceal the evils lurking just beneath its surface. Never has this been clearer to me than upon my reading of the recent death of 2010 Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, after only weeks removed from a Chinese prison.
Dr. Liu’s death shook me from a naïve trance, one that would have me believe that the regime in Beijing had divorced itself entirely from the tactics of its Maoist past. In this sentiment, I do not feel that I am alone.
Dr. Liu was a writer, critic, and academic. But his most important title was that of a human rights activist, for which his devotion won him the Nobel Peace Prize in October of 2010. Nevertheless, his marvelous work, as an academic, yes, but especially as an activist, was dutifully withheld from the minds of the Chinese public. Why? Not because Dr. Liu lacked credentials, but rather because Beijing deemed him a possible threat to their existence.
“Liu played a pivotal role in the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square, helping to negotiate the peaceful departure of the last students to occupy the square. He kept the spirit of that movement alive in 2008 when he helped to write Charter 08, a democracy manifesto,” as a July 14 Wall Street Journal editorial put it. “Shortly thereafter he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for ‘subversion.’”
Although China’s treatment capabilities were exhausted, those of the West were not. In fact, Western doctors believed other “options” for Dr. Liu’s liver cancer, to which he ultimately succumbed, might exist in either Germany or the U.S. Thus, Dr. Liu sought life-extending treatment abroad; he sought a chance in the West. But the chance was one Beijing was not willing to bestow. His transfer request was denied.
At the very least, the man did not deserve to live out his final days in a Chinese political prison. But, just as the extent to which Dr. Liu’s death was because of neglect or malpractice will be forever unknown, so too will more information of the horrible manifestations of the authoritarianism still residing within China’s political prisons. How convenient.
Liu never did see the American or German hospital to which he wished to be transferred. His knowledge of China’s brutal treatment of “subversives,” and the potential “destabilizing” influence that such information could have had on his most ardent supporters, made Dr. Liu too great a threat to Beijing for them to allow his release.
From this tragedy, let us, at the very least, learn this: We must always keep in mind that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing is authoritarian. It rules China with an iron fist.
Opposition parties are not permitted; religious persecution runs rampant; politicians are not elected; and opponents of the government find themselves in jail. Indeed, China is far from being a bastion of freedom in East Asia.
Beijing’s authoritarians are not legitimate, and therefore democracy, i.e., true democracy, should be encouraged by the U.S. and her allies at every opportunity. Although the U.S. is only the custodian of its own freedom, as John Quincy Adams once reminded us, it must be friends of freedom everywhere. Remembering Dr. Liu, and encouraging other Chinese democrats like him, it seems to me, is the least we can do to be a friend of freedom in China. May his life and death inspire Chinese reformers and may his soul rest in peace.
— Ross Dubberly is Book Editor at The Arch Conservative. (More to come on the creation and shuffling of positions).