Liu Xiaobo

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo (lyōō shoubō), 1955–2017, Chinese literary critic, poet, and political and human-rights activist, b. Changchun, grad. Jilin Univ. (B.A., 1982), Beijing Normal Univ. (M.A., 1984; Ph.D., 1988). He taught literature at Beijing Normal, published widely, and in the 1980s became known for his fiery lectures and scathing literary criticism. Beginning in 1988 Liu was a visiting scholar at such universities as Hawaii, Oslo, and Columbia, where he was teaching when the Tiananmen Square protests began in 1989. Returning to China, he assumed a leadership role in the protests, advocated nonviolence and democracy, attempted to negotiate, protected protesters from Chinese soldiers, undertook a hunger strike, and was imprisoned for 21 months. Subsequently he was barred from publishing in China (though he sometimes did so pseudonymously and also published abroad), and after his release from prison he was blacklisted from Chinese academia. In 1995–96 and 1996–99 Liu was again imprisoned for his political activities. In 2008 he coauthored Charter 08, which called for political and human-rights reforms, multiparty democracy, the rule of law, and the end of censorship. He was arrested, charged with inciting subversion, and after a closed one-day trial (2009) sentenced to 11 years in prison. In 2010 Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; he was the first Chinese citizen to receive it. Shortly before he died he was released from prison under guard for treatment for advanced cancer. Despite China's many bans on his work, Liu published more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles and poems. The first of his works to appear in English translation, No Enemies, No Hatred (2012), is a collection of his essays and poems that spans two decades and provides insights into many aspects of contemporary Chinese life.

See biography by Yu Jie (tr. 2015); studies by P. Link (2011) and J.-P. Béja and Fu Hualing (2012).

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