Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11 year jail sentence for campaigning for democracy in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 in a ceremony he could not attend. In a message smuggled from his prison cell he asked that his Nobel Peace Prize to be dedicated to “the lost souls from the 4th of June” Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 which suppressed China’s dawning democracy movement. The following extracts from the speech he made at his trail remind us of the enormous personal cost that those who struggle for freedom of speech, human rights and democracy are often willing to pay for the benefit of strangers and future generations.
“Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as i look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love…
If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia… My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I’ve made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views … can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.
Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.
In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfil the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.”