Levin Floor Statement on the Life of Liu Xiaobo

Jul 17, 2017 Issues: Foreign Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Sander Levin (MI-09) today made the following remarks on the House floor on the life of Chinese activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who died last week in China:

(Remarks as delivered)

“I rise today to mourn the passing of the Chinese human rights advocate, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who died last Thursday in China, under guard. 

“The world has lost an incomparably courageous advocate who was dedicated to advancing human rights and rule of law, and paid for them with his own freedom and life. 

“Liu's passing last week in Chinese custody marked a tragic end to over a decade of persecution by the Chinese authorities, who relentlessly mistreated him as he gradually became a symbol of the pro-democracy movement around the globe. In 2010, the Nobel Peace Committee awarded him the Peace Prize for his thoughtful advocacy for reform, and for his courageous support of the pro-democracy document Charter 08. 

“A year prior to the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu, in 2009, Chinese authorities tried him for subversion of state power, for which he received an 11-year sentence. Given his rising stature in the international community, they imprisoned him in secret locations, away from family, supporters, or international media. They kept him from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and put pressure on the Committee to rescind the award, in addition to doing everything they could to prevent Liu's supporters from attending the ceremony in Norway. They routinely censored and continue to censor the internet for references to Liu and other pro-democracy advocates and ideas. 

“China was so afraid of the power of his words and the bravery of his actions that, with Liu suffering from severe illness, Chinese authorities adopted the ultimate cruelty of not letting him leave China for medical help that experts said might save his life. For China the supreme goal was his silence.

“The more we care about human rights and freedom, the more we must now mark his death, and remember him by not being silent ourselves.

“I first came to know about Liu's work a few years after the Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created as part of the debate over China's ascension to the World Trade Organization, and concerns from Members of Congress over China's human rights record. In 2000, I coauthored the legislation that created the China Commission to help advance, and monitor human rights abuses in China that so many of us are deeply concerned with. The Commission continues to do important work today by shinning a spot light on many issues such as abuses in labor, environment, and freedom of speech and association.

“While he was the most prominent voice in China against its repression of human rights and democratic values, Liu was not as well known in his life as another brave voice, Andrei Sakharov. His voice and actions occurred during the Cold War, where there was a full press against the Soviet Union, including its suppression of freedom. He supported numerous efforts for freedom, including those of another noble warrior for freedom, Natan Sharansky. Like Sakharov, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but both were kept in virtual imprisonment and not allowed to go to Stockholm.

“Liu’s battles for freedom occurred when China’s economic and political power were rising. The U.S. and other nations were wrestling with how to adapt and relations with China have been increasingly infused with concerns about security, including the nuclearization of North Korea. So there has been a tendency for concerns in other nations about human rights and freedom in China to take a back seat. This is a major change from the days of Tiananmen Square, and events elsewhere then in China. My son, Andy Levin was in Chengdu during demonstrations there for freedom and he managed amidst all the dangerous turbulence to cable a vivid article about the struggle for freedom there to the Detroit News.        

“Chinese authorities have also relentlessly harassed his widow, Liu Xia, by keeping her in isolation, under house arrest for weeks at a time, and monitoring her every move. For as long as she remains there, the authorities will continue to see her as a symbol of dissent, and continue to harass her in every way imaginable. 

“The U.S. government at all levels, including the highest, must speak up clearly for her freedom. 

“I end today by leaving you with Liu words to his wife on the last day before his trial for subversion of state power in 2009: ‘Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with ashes.  I will calmly face the impending trial, with no regrets for my choices, and will look forward with hope to tomorrow.’”