CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 September 2017

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Adopted as prophet embraced as martyr

HONG KONG (SE): The question, “Do you think the Chinese government will release him now?” that was asked on the evening of 10 December 2010 in Oslo, Norway, when an empty chair sat in its lonely position on the stage at the presentation of the Nobel Prize for Peace to Liu Xiaobo has now been definitively answered.
 
Liu’s death from liver cancer in the First Hospital of the China Medical University in Shenyang on July 13 has given the definitive answer to that question and has seen widespread grief and anger expressed from many parts of the globe.
 
Christians in Hong Kong, who had adopted him as a prophet, are now embracing him as a martyr to the cause of the truth.
 
The former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, prayed to the Lord that he may allow him to rest in peace and penned his prayer on a blessing card for the late prophet of peace and truth.
 
“Dear Xiaobo,” the cardinal wrote. “You are like the prophet Jeremiah in my heart. You are like a lamb taken to the slaughter. We demand justice for you from the Lord, but your wisdom has reminded us of the mission of a prophet, which includes suffering and death.
 
The cardinal continued, “Through your wife, we have offered to Our Lord the reform of our motherland. Your blood will not be shed in vain. May God bless you and may you rest in peace!”
 
A group calling itself Christians in Hong Kong appealed in a statement released prior to his death for Liu to be allowed to travel to receive medical treatment overseas.
 
“We are Christians in Hong Kong. We believe all life is from God and every person has inherent dignity. No one can deprive humans of these rights. Every nation should protect the life of her people and safeguard their well-being,” the group said.
 
It continued, “According to clause 33 of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the country respects and protects citizens’ human rights. We therefore call for the Chinese government to realise its constitutional responsibility to respect human rights, to respect Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s right to life and his choice to receive medical treatment overseas,” the statement continued.
 
But like others, the group’s appeal fell on deaf ears.
 
The Justice and Peace Commission and the Christian Social Concern Fellowship held a prayer meeting outside the China Liaison Office in Western on the evening of July 14 and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China organised a candlelight march on the evening of July 15.
 
The people gathered to honour what was honoured at the presentation of the Nobel Prize, what Liu himself had expressed during his trial in 2009 that freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights and the source of all humanity and the mother of truth.
 
For this he was sentenced to 11 years in jail and had been held ever since at the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning province.
 
Liu was arrested for his role in the publication of Charter 08, a document of wide-ranging content calling for greater democratisation in China and a proper respect for human rights.
 
The 303 people who signed Charter 08 described themselves as ordinary citizens seeking to reaffirm fundamental rights and calling for political reform to create a free, democratic and constitutional nation.
 
The document addresses what it calls universal rights, which are stipulated in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. It makes 19 specific proposals on the political system, civil rights and social development.
 
Charter 08 highlights that “human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are rights that each person is born with and enjoys.”
 
At the time of Liu’s arrest, China had just staged a successful Olympic Games in Beijing.
 
The Hong Kong-based Asian Centre for the Progress of Peoples commented at the time, “In reality, as seen after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, many events have contradicted these beautiful statements, such as… the resumption of blocking of websites and curtailing of the freedom of speech.”
 
And so it has been. Liu himself discovered that merely for publishing different political views and taking part in a peaceful democracy movement, as a teacher he lost his lectern, as a writer he lost the right to be read and as an intellectual he lost the right to speak publicly.
 
UCAN reported that over 150 human rights advocates and politicians in Hong Kong have joined with other people on the mainland in forming a memorial alliance after news of Liu’s death reached the special administrative region.
 
“Liu’s disease was a disease of imprisonment and we shall record his deeds for him; Liu’s death was a death for China and we shall carry on his fight. We cry bitterly for the China left behind by Liu,” the alliance said in a statement released on the evening of July 13 after his death.
 
The members of the group in Hong Kong come from the Friends of Liu Xiaobo, Signatories of Chapter 08 and Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group.
 
UCAN reported Or Yan-yan, the project officer from the Justice and Peace Commission, as saying, “We are sad and angry about the death of Liu Xiaobo.”
 
“He was innocent, but the Chinese Communist Party imprisoned him for the pro-democratic Charter 08 he co-authored and some words he wrote in six articles. It is a violation of human rights and the rule of law,” Or continued, adding that in many ways Liu was a last ray of hope for democracy in China that today, seems to be a hope too far.
 
“There was no political reform after the June 4 movement in 1989 and it slipped even further backwards under Xi Jinping, who has tightened suppression on civil society,” she reflected.
 
Or pointed out that attention must now be paid to the wife of Liu, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010.
 
“The Chinese Communist Party might fear Liu Xia will tell the truth about the medical treatment that Liu received before his bail and how they treated her in the past years,” Or said.
 
Or believes the authorities will exert pressure on Liu Xia, and use her brother, Liu Hui, as a political hostage. Liu Hui was sentenced to imprisonment for financial fraud in 2013, but his family claimed he was framed.
 
Amnesty International said in a tribute that history will not judge Beijing kindly, as the only other Nobel Peace laureate to die in custody was Carl von Ossietzki in 1938 in Nazi Germany. It also noted that foreign governments are not blameless either, as they have been fickle in standing up for human rights, especially when economic advantage is at stake.
 
“In the end, we all share some responsibility for Liu Xiaobo’s tragic fate. This too is the stark lesson we must remember, even as we mourn the loss of a human rights giant,” it concluded.

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