|Oswaldo Payá, Liu Xiaobo and the power of moral actions|
The speech he delivered at his trial on December 23, 2009 is one that remains extremely relevant today and more so on Christmas. In a key passage of his final statement Liu Xiaobo said the following:
But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my "June Second Hunger Strike Declaration" twenty years ago ‑ I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.
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.This decision to bust up hatred with love combined with the firmness and courage at the same time to reject and defy the injustices committed is not only a core principle of nonviolence but also of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus commands us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. When one says the Lord's prayer how many understand and internalize that "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." Liu Xiaobo in the statement above is doing just that.
In a Christmas Message delivered by the Christian Liberation Movement in 1990 and written by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas although 19 years earlier and separated by great distance and different cultures the same message is found:
Let us not turn to violence and force, but we will not submit or allow ourselves to be intimidated by them. Yes, we want change, changes in all of society, because the heart of Cuba has already changed, and we have renovated it in hope, work, suffering and sorrow. We have renovated ourselves and do not want Cuba to sink and our children with her. That violence not explode, that repression not explode, that the truth break out, and let there be an outbreak of Peace and Freedom.
No one in Cuba wants to submit to a foreign power, or return to other forms of injustice. Let us not fool ourselves any more, Cubans know what we want: we want reconciliation among all, we want a reunion with our distant brothers in exile, we want to work for our Country and our families, with boundless generosity to our hard work and positive creativity, we want dialogue, we want to solve this juncture of our history together, with love, we want freedom. We know it is possible and we will achieve it, it will be everyone’s victory.Oswaldo Payá was murdered by the Cuban regime's state security agents along with Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012 but he lived the above creed until the end, and the movement, he helped to found, continues to embrace these nonviolent principles.
On December 28, 2016 Liu Xiaobo observed his 61st birthday and his ninth behind bars in a Chinese prison. He was a prisoner of conscience imprisoned in 2008 for his participation in the drafting of Charter 08. His wife, Liu Xia, had been under house arrest since 2010 when her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Norway was threatened by Communist China not to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo but courageously went ahead and did so. Relations between the two countries deteriorated. In addition the Chinese regime initiated its own "Peace Prize" in 2010 to counter Nobel's and Fidel Castro was the 2014 winner.
On July 13, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo died of "multiple organ failure" while still under the custody of the Chinese communists. Friends and family expressed concern that he was not receiving proper medical care. Cuban human rights defenders have observed this type of death induced by medical neglect against dissidents before.
Four days later in Washington DC, Chinese dissident Yang Jianli mourned the passing of this human rights icon and briefly reviewed his decades long activism.
Liu Xiaobo was not only the best known freedom and democracy fighter of China, but, in life as well as in death, he represents the best of what China can ever be. In April 1989, when the Tiananmen democracy movement just broke out, he returned to Beijing from New York and became the most important intellectual leader of the movement. After the Tiananmen Massacre, he shouldered both moral and political responsibilities and continued to fight from inside China while many others left the country and even abandoned the movement. He was in and out prison and spent half of the past 28 years after the Tiananmen Massacre in incarceration. Never wavering in spirit, he shared the sufferings of his compatriots and gave his life for them. He is a martyr and saint.The Communist regimes in China and Cuba fear those who speak truth to power but have also discovered that murdering those who freely express themselves does not silence their protests and new activists emerge.
Yes. Liu Xiaobo is a martyr and saint who possesses a moral authority that his persecutors can only envy. His legacy of love, justice, peace and sacrifice will surely far outlive the deeds of those who persecuted him.
In Cuba, the movement founded by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas elected Eduardo Cardet Concepción the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement. Eduardo has been arbitrarily detained since November 30, 2016 for offering a critical assessment of the legacy of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Amnesty International has recognized him a prisoner of conscience. Oswaldo's daughter, Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, carries on her dad's work with an initiative called CubaDecide.
In China, despite her husband's death Liu Xia remains under house arrest. A French couple, Hu Jiamin and Marine Brossard, who last week in Shenzhen, "painted a mural showing an empty blue chair at an art exhibition" in a tribute to Liu Xiaobo were taken away by secret police. Friends and journalists are still unable to reach them.
Thirty years after the death of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the former head of the NAACP, Benjamin Hooks on the holiday designated after the martyred civil rights leader in 1998 addressed an audience and explained: "You can kill the dreamer, but you can't kill the dream." This holds true today for Martin Luther King Jr., Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Liu Xiaobo. Their dreams and examples live on because they embraced love and not hate.