Liu Xiaobo

Biography of Liu Xiaobo

FHe was a writer, poet, teacher, literary critic, and human rights defender. He was born on December 28, 1955 in Changchun, Jilin Province, People’s Republic of China, as part of a family of intellectuals.

She was first married to Tao Li in 1984, with whom she had a son, Liu Tao, the following year.

During his time in the United States, he was visiting professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, where he taught political science. Liu Xiaobo saved hundreds of lives by negotiating a peaceful way out during the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

He wrote and signed Charter 08, together with 303 Chinese writers and intellectuals, requesting the implementation of political reforms that would bring democracy to China.

Later, in 1996, he married the poet, photographer and painter Liu Xia, five years younger than him. Liu and his new wife were united by a decades-long friendship and a great love for literature.

From 2003 to 2007, he was president of the Chinese Independent Center PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists).

He is considered the most important social activist of the contemporary Chinese era and was a staunch defender of non-violence and peaceful resistance. He thought that political changes should originate from the citizenry and be guided by the citizens.

He fought harder than anyone for democracy for China and was a benchmark for those who opposed the mandate of China’s only party: the communist party.

He died at the age of 61, on July 13, 2017, in Shenyang (Liaoning Province, People’s Republic of China) from liver cancer while in prison.

In his closing argument in court to defend himself, he said:

“My keywords for political reform in China are gradual, peaceful, orderly and controllable. Opposition is not the same as subversion ”.

University studies

All the Liu Xiaobo’s university studies he studied them in China:

  • First at Jilin University, one of the most prestigious Chinese universities, where he obtained between 1977 and 1982, his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Chinese Literature.
  • Later, from 1982 to 1984, he completed a Master of Arts (MA) in Literature at the Peking Normal University, where he trained as a professor.
  • And finally, he got his Ph.D. in Literature Science at Peking Normal University from 1986 to 1988 while he was a professor.


Within your publications we find the following:

  • The book “Aesthetics and Human Freedom”(1988), a brilliant dissertation on the liberation of the human spirit.
  • In March 2011, his writings were published in France, under the title “La Philosophie Du Porc Et Autres Essais”(The Philosophy of the Pig and Other Essays), edited by Gallimard, with a foreword by the Czech dissident Vaclav Havel.
  • In September 2011, “I have no enemies, I do not know hatred”, A book of essays and poems written over two decades. Some texts where he claims freedom of thought, the right to dissent and the need to preserve the dignity of the human being.
  • The book of poems “Elegies of June 4”Is a complement in verse to the courage, denunciation and resistance of the young man who challenged and stopped the passage of a tank in Tiananmen. It was published in 2012.

Awards and recognitions

Multiple international organizations awarded him various distinctions and recognitions for his peaceful resistance in favor of human rights:

  • In 2008 he was awarded the Czech Homo Homini Prize, in recognition of his dedication to promoting human rights, democracy and non-violent solutions to political conflicts.
  • He was awarded the 2009 PEN / Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award to honor writers who have fought for their right to freedom of expression.
  • In 2010, the German Hermann Kesten Literary Prize, which is awarded to persecuted writers.
  • Also in 2010, the Geneva Institute for Democracy and Development awarded him the Giuseppe Motta Medal for his outstanding achievements in promoting peace, democracy and human rights.
  • That same year Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize for his long and peaceful fight for human rights in China.
  • In 2012 he was awarded the One Humanity Prize, for fighting for freedom of expression, democracy and human rights in China.

Tiananmen Square protests

While in the United States, he learned about the student protests in Tiananmen Square, so he decided to travel to Beijing and show solidarity with the protesters.

He went on a hunger strike, along with other Chinese intellectual colleagues, to convince the Chinese government and students of the need for negotiation. His intervention made it possible for many students to leave before the arrival of the Chinese troops who went to commit the Tiananmen massacre.

On May 20, 1989, the Chinese government had declared martial law and, on the night of June 3, sent troops and tanks to Tiananmen Square to break up the protest.

His language skills and charisma allowed him to build bridges between Chinese intellectuals and grassroots activists.

In the political movement generated after the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, it included diverse groups of citizens, even rivals. Therefore, he dedicated himself to create a democratic movement to defend human rights in China.

Letter 08

Liu Xiaobo’s greatest legacy was a manifesto promoting China’s political reform and it was called Letter 08. Letter 08, written in 2008, was a document inspired by Letter 77 that Vaclav Havel and other Czechoslovaks wrote in 1977 against the communist regime of their country.

That letter was a manifesto calling for freedom, equality and human rights to be recognized as universal values. He also requested democratic reforms in China: that the division of powers (executive, legislative and judicial) and freedom of information be recognized.

This manifesto, without a doubt, established what was necessary for China to migrate towards democracy and freedom, with a form of government regulated through independent laws.

Liu Xiaobo and the prison

Liu Xiaobo served a long life in prison for defending the human rights of Chinese citizens and advocating for a democratic China free from communism:

  • Following the protests in Tiananmen Square, and accused of “incitement and counterrevolutionary purposes”, he was imprisoned from 1989 to 1991.
  • The second time, he was imprisoned from 1995 to 1996 in a “labor re-education camp”.
  • He was then imprisoned for the third time, from 1996 to 1999, for being part of the democracy and civil rights movement.
  • In 2008 he was detained for his participation in the drafting of Charter 08.
  • In 2009 he was arrested for “inciting subversion against the power of the State” and sentenced to 11 years in prison deprived of his political rights.

These years of incarceration were due to his fight for democracy and civil rights in China.

He died during his sentence, from liver cancer discovered on May 23, 2017, for which he was transferred to the Shenyang University Hospital.

Human rights defenders viewed his death as the willful negligence of the Chinese regime to rid itself of its main domestic political enemy.

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