Friday, December 30, 2011

The Freedom Writer

by Ellen Bork

Wall Street Journal

December 30, 2011

When the dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize from his prison cell, the Chinese government reacted hysterically—denouncing the Nobel Committee, retaliating against Norway diplomatically and trying to intimidate foreign governments out of sending representatives to the ceremony. Mr. Liu had been arrested nearly two years earlier, just before the release of Charter 08, a declaration of democratic principles for China inspired by Charter 77, the Czechoslovak initiative led by the playwright (and later Czech president) Václav Havel that, 31 years earlier, led to the Velvet Revolution and inspired people throughout the Soviet bloc.

China's leaders should feel just as aggrieved by No Enemies, No Hatred, a collection that shows why the Communist Party fears this 56-year-old intellectual-turned-activist and his ideas. In essays on China's rise, Tibet, the impact of materialism and nationalism on morality and sex, the 2008 Olympics, and much more, Mr. Liu advances the antithesis to the Party line, writing "free from fear," as co-editor Perry Link puts it in his valuable introduction.

The essays appeared mainly in publications based in the U.S. and Hong Kong and found their way back to China via the Internet, which Mr. Liu celebrates, perhaps only half-jokingly, as evidence of a divine being. Interspersed throughout are poems, often searing, that attest to Mr. Liu's intellectual as well as emotional partnership with his wife, Liu Xia, an artist currently under house arrest. Rounding out the book are documents including the text of Charter 08, Mr. Liu's poignant statements at his 2009 trial and the verdict sentencing Mr. Liu to 11 years in prison.