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Remember Liu

  • Opinion

by Jennifer Ngo (MSC Migration, Mobility and Development)

A group of artists and activists have put together a poetry reading of works by the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, and his disappeared widow, Liu Xia. The event is to remember the prominent Chinese dissident not just as an activist, but as a poet and a literary critic, and to raise awareness on the plight of his widow, whose freedom is still limited.

Liu died of multiple organ failure on 13 July in captivity. He has been in jail since 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” by co-writing the Charter 08 democracy manifesto. Liu was barred from leaving the country for treatment even in his last days. He became the only Laureate to die in captivity since Nazi Germany. His remains were then unceremoniously cremated and dumped into the South China Sea. Liu’s widow, Liu Xia, had been on house arrest since his imprisonment, and have disappeared since her husband’s hasty funeral, except for one YouTube video of her asking for time to mourn in August, and a phone call with a Hong Kong activist in early September.

“I was prepared to stand up [for Liu] as an activist, but what blew me away was his writing…And that’s the thing which had been lost,” said Daniel York, a director, actor and scriptwriter who had actively campaigned for equal rights for creative East Asians. The bilingual event will feature writing by both Liu and his artist widow, Liu Xia, read out by a group of Asian artists. “Doing [this event] would be to remember and commemorate him as an artist.”

York said awareness of what happened to Liu, and the unknown future of Liu Xia, was low. The Chinese community in the UK had also remained silent, which York,himself of mixed Chinese and English descent, attributed partially to a fixed idea that East Asians aren’t very vocal culturally, and may even think they deserve less.

“It’s almost like, generally Chinese people…we don’t deserve freedom, basic human rights, as much as the world,” he said.

Liu was first jailed after the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where he had flew back to China from his visiting professorship in the United States to take part in the student-led pro-democracy movement. He opted to stay in China after his release, despite the limits on freedom. His death had led to critiques that the international human rights community had abandoned him, and China’s oppressive and authoritarian rule was “overlooked” by nations due to the country’s economic clout.

The event is titled No Enemies: A Poetry Reading. The event will be on Friday 17 November 2017 20:00 – 21:00 GMT at The Attic, Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ. Tickets will cost £5.

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