The recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize confronts the problems of closed-society China.
During the Nobel ceremony in December 2010, an empty chair was placed in Oslo City Hall to honor Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose outspokenness not only earned him the prize but a prison term as well. The award catapulted him to international stardom, shining a penetrating light on his own imprisonment much as he had often shined light on the troubles of his country. These essays provide an up-to-date account of the country's current political and cultural climate, touching on a wide array of issues from the plight of the Chinese farmer to the eroding spirituality of Chinese youth. The essays are tempered by poems, many of which are interwoven throughout the book to provide a much-needed calming effect. Yet Liu Xiaobo's widespread appeal comes not from his poetry, but in his ability to move beyond platitudes and deal in personal stories—e.g., the tale of a local police department's gross mishandling of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl and the protests that developed soon after. Equally powerful is the author’s assault on China’s closed society, noting that while prostitution is technically illegal in China, thanks to sexual suppression, China is now "number one in the world.” Most revealing, however, is Liu Xiaobo's understanding of the risks of speaking out. As if predicting his own future, in his 2008 essay "Imprisoning People for Words and the Power of Public Opinion," he writes, "China has a rich tradition of persecuting people for their words.” Within two years he would come to learn this firsthand; as a result, others would begin to listen.
For the world that knew Liu Xiaobo only for his empty chair in Oslo, this much-needed book fills the void.