AAS Session # 358
The Unbearable Heaviness of Becoming: Liu Xiaobo and Chinese Political Consciousness
Saturday, March 24, 2018, 5:15 PM – 7:15 PM
Chair: Jerome Cohen
Organizer: Rowena Xiaoqing He
“I have no enemies,” wrote future Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo in the closing statement for his 2009 trial that he was not allowed to deliver in court. Liu, serving an eleven-year prison term for “subverting state power,” died on July 13, 2017. Liu’s death and the tenth anniversary of Charter 08, a citizens’ manifesto that Liu disseminated and that led to his imprisonment, provide an occasion for reflection.
Liu Xiaobo’s life journey is inseparable from the historical time in which he lived. From a freewheeling literary critic amidst the “culture heat” and political awakening of the 1980s, to a participant and a peacemaker in the 1989 Tiananmen Movement, and eventually a public intellectual devoted to China’s peaceful democratic transformation, the last forty years of Liu’s life epitomized the evolution of political consciousness among Chinese intellectuals and ordinary Chinese citizens since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Liu’s experience was shaped by the historical context in China; at the same time, he himself became an agent for change. In death as in life, Liu’s name remains taboo in China.
Our interdisciplinary roundtable will engage the audience in discussing Liu Xiaobo’s personal transformation in parallel with the making of Chinese political consciousness since the Reform Era, and the implications for China and the world. Weiping Cui, professor of Beijing Film Academy, personal friend of Liu Xiaobo, and signatory of Charter 08, will share her perspectives on Liu Xiaobo and 1980s China. Panel organizer Rowena Xiaoqing He, China-born Canadian historian specializing in the Tiananmen Movement, will focus on Liu Xiaobo in 1989;Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, will consider the domestic and international contexts of Charter 08 and China’s citizens movements. Yujie Chen, Taiwan scholar focusing on criminal justice and human rights developments in Taiwan and China, will add her comparative perspectives from the experience of Taiwan. Panel chair Jerome Cohen, professor of Law and a leading expert on Chinese law and government, will suggest how past Chinese experiences inform the present and may influence the future.
Area of Study: China and Inner Asia
Discipline(s): History Political Science Law Literature