Charter 08

In response to what he saw at the Olympic Games, Liu put the organizing powers of the internet to use with serious repercussions.

In late 2008, Liu and a handful of colleagues released a public letter criticizing the Chinese government.

Modeled on Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77, they called their letter Charter 08 and it gathered more than 12,000 signatures.

Two days before the Charter went live online, Liu was arrested and put on trial for inciting public unrest and sentenced to eleven more years in prison.

Liu’s closing statement in his defense simultaneously expressed acceptance of his fate and defiance of the Chinese system:

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 fulfill 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.

Thank you, everyone. (from Liu’s Nobel lecture in absentia)