My Take

Liu Xiaobo joins the pantheon of China’s great patriots

The Chinese authorities should recognise the selfless devotion of the Nobel laureate to his country and its people, even if they despise his political beliefs, and let his wife Liu Xia leave the country to mourn in peace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 12:44am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 2:30am

A nation’s greatness is not only measured by the power it projects and the fear it inspires. It’s also judged by the mercy and magnanimity it shows to its opponents. China’s harsh treatment of Liu Xiaobo was no doubt meant as a warning to other dissidents and a snub to foreign powers which dared to interfere on his behalf.

Now that Liu has succumbed to liver cancer, whatever differences and enmities there were between the citizen and the state are settled. It’s time to show leniency to his long-suffering wife Liu Xia and the rest of his family.

China is, without doubt, a great power today; it also needs to be a great nation.

In the annals of China’s long history, there has been a long line of reformers who loved their country and the civilisation it represented. Understandably, they never had an easy time with the authorities. Many were willing to suffer prison, exile and even death for their patriotism. In the end, their political beliefs and the reform programmes they advocated were less important than the selfless love of country they had shown in their self-sacrifice. Whether traditional-Confucian, liberal or communist, they are remembered as great patriots.

Liu Xiaobo has joined the pantheon of those great Chinese.

Foreigners and westernised Chinese see Liu as a champion of Western-inspired liberal democracy and human rights. But that is only one facet of his deep and complex thinking, which at times, was not uncritical of Western political thought, including capitalist democracy as it is practised today.

As an accomplished literary critic, he was steeped in the full range of Chinese literature and culture. His reformist impulse and patriotism was deeply Chinese. He once wrote he had no hate and no enemies. The Chinese authorities should show the same magnanimity and recognise the selfless devotion of this patriot to his country and its people, even if they despise his political beliefs. In the last analysis, his struggles as an individual would not have amounted to much had it not been turned into an ideological battlefield between China and outside powers.

Silence amplifies friends’ fears about the fate of Nobel laureate’s widow Liu Xia

Meanwhile, his wife Liu Xia has expressed the wish to leave China, a place of deep sorrow and great suffering for her. “Live on well,” his last words to her.

Theirs is a great tragic love story for the ages.

Let her go now. Let her mourn in peace.