Liu Xiaobo and the Future of China

September 07, 2017
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

about the event

Liu Xiaobo died on July 13, 2017, a victim of intolerance by a fearful Chinese government that imprisoned him for his leadership role in writing and organizing Charter 08. That historic document, which was published on December 10, 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was signed at great risk by more than 10,000 Chinese citizens. Inspired by Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, it envisioned an informal association of Chinese citizens, open-ended in size but united by a determination to promote democratization and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Liu Xiaobo was hopeful about China’s future. He famously said in the closing statement at his trial, “China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme.” Yet he also feared that if China didn’t democratize but instead continued to rise as a dictatorship, “the results will not only be another catastrophe for the Chinese people but likely also a disaster for the spread of liberal democracy in the world.” Liu’s legacy remains profoundly relevant in our troubled world, and his courageous battle for democracy and against repression merits continued remembrance and celebration.


Perry Link, University of California, Riverside
Xiaorong Li, Scholar
Xiao Qiang, China Digital Times
Louisa Greve, National Endowment for Democracy
Andrew Nathan, Columbia University
Moderated by
Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy
This event is invitation-only.

about the speakers

Perry Link has a B.A. in philosophy (Harvard, 1966, with a senior thesis on whether ethical values are universal) and a Ph.D. in history (Harvard, 1976, with a dissertation on values and attitudes in popular Chinese fiction).  He has taught modern Chinese language and literature twenty-three years at Princeton, eight at UCLA, and nine at UC-Riverside, where he is currently Chancellorial Chair for Teaching Across Disciplines. His academic books and articles are on Chinese language, literature, popular culture, and intellectual history.  His most recent single-authored academic book is An Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics (Harvard, 2013).  He has written in much non-academic publications about courageous Chinese thinkers, writers and activists including Liu Binyan, Fang Lizhi, Liu Xiaobo, and many others.  His most well-known article, on how the Chinese Communist regime uses intimidation to induce self-censorship in would-be critics, is “The Anaconda in the Chandelier” (The New York  Review of Books, 2002).

Xiaorong Li is the founder of several human rights nongovernmental organizations focusing on China and a co-editor of “Charter 08,” a collection of essays by Charter 08 signers and supporters.

Xiao Qiang is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Information and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of China Digital Times, a bi-lingual China news website. A theoretical physicist by training, Xiao Qiang studied at the University of Science and Technology of China and entered the PhD program (1986-1989) in Astrophysics at the University of Notre Dame. He became a full time human rights activist after the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Xiao was the Executive Director of the New York-based NGO Human Rights in China from 1991 to 2002 and vice-chairman of the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy. Xiao is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship in 2001, and is profiled in the book Soul Purpose: 40 People Who Are Changing the World for the Better, (Melcher Media, 2003). He was also a visiting fellow of the Santa Fe Institute in Spring, 2002. In Fall 2003, Xiao launched China Digital Times to explore how to apply cutting edge technologies to aggregate, contextualize and translate online information from and about China. He taught classes on China reporting and human rights in the Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley from 2003 to 2009.  Xiao’s current research focuses on the state censorship and control of the Internet, emerging political discourses and public opinion on Chinese social media. He teaches class on Digital Activism, and runs the Counter-Power Lab, an interdisciplinary faculty-student group researching innovative technologies to expand the free flow of information in cyberspace . In January 2015, Xiao has been named to Foreign Policy magazine’s Pacific Power Index, a list of “50 people shaping the future of the U.S.-China relationship.” He was named on the list “for taking on China’s Great Firewall of censorship.”

Louisa Greve is Vice President for Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Global Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she previously served as Director for East Asia, Senior Program Officer, and Program Officer. She has studied, worked, and travelled in Asia since 1980 and has testified before Congressional committees on human rights in China and democracy promotion in Asia. She was a member of the AEI/Armitage International Taiwan Policy Working Group (2007) and the Council on Foreign Relations Term Member Roundtable on U.S. National Security – New Threats in a Changing World (2002). Ms. Greve served as a member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA from 1993 to 1998, and was a volunteer China and Mongolia specialist for Amnesty from 1990 to 1999. She served two terms as a member of the Virginia State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2007-2011).

Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. His teaching and research interests include Chinese politics and foreign policy, the comparative study of political participation and political culture, and human rights. Prof. Nathan’s books include Chinese Democracy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985); The Tiananmen Papers, co-edited with Perry Link (New York: PublicAffairs, 2001); and China’s Search for Security, co-authored with Andrew Scobell (Columbia University Press, 2012). Prof. Nathan served as chair of the department of political science, 2003-2006, chair of the executive committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 2002-2003, and director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, 1991-1995.

Carl Gershman is President of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, congressionally supported grant-making institution with the mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts. In addition to presiding over the Endowment’s grants program in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, he has overseen the creation of the quarterlyJournal of DemocracyInternational Forum for Democratic Studies, and the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. He also took the lead in launching in New Delhi in 1999 the World Movement for Democracy, which is a global network of democracy practitioners and scholars. Mr. Gershman is currently encouraging other democracies to establish their own foundations devoted to the promotion of democratic institutions in the world.

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