Death of a hero: Liu Xiaobo 1955-2017

Guaranteed to get this post/blog banned in China, alas, when in fact the Chinese should have been proud of this son, and certainly should have listened to him.

Interesting to see that SBS News devoted twelve minutes to the story. It was the lead item last night, unlike on ABC.

Liu Xiaobo was born into one of China’s first generations to be raised after the country’s Cultural Revolution. Receiving a PhD in literature, he was branded a ‘black horse’ early in his academic career.

“He was notorious for tipping sacred cows,” friend Australia author Linda Jaivin told SBS World News. Ms Jaivin lived in Beijing in the 1980s and moved in the same literary circles as Mr Liu. “He was very intellectual, very confident. He would attack people that everybody thought were the greatest writers and the greatest poets. He was quite controversial in his opinions and very good fun also,” Ms Jaivin said.

Mr Liu’s provocative writing would soon turn to impassioned protest.

Protesting at Tiananmen Square

When the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests broke out Liu was a visiting scholar at America’s Colombia University.

He rushed home to support the students, becoming a key protest figure. He gave rousing speeches, and famously joined a hunger strike.

Most significantly he is credited with saving many lives by helping to negotiate peaceful retreat for students out of the square….

During the days following the massacre Mr Liu, along with other activist friends, took refuge in Australian diplomat Nicholas Jose’s Beijing apartment.

When the area was evacuated Mr Jose offered Mr Liu refuge at the Australian embassy. “He could have come inside the gates to safety, he would have been in the jurisdiction of the Australian embassy if he did that. But he decided no, he wanted to meet his friends and take his chance,” he told SBS World News.

Now a writer and professor at Adelaide University, Mr Jose says that moment is the most precious memory of his friend.

“I will always remember that handshake outside the embassy that night. He borrowed my clothes. He was wearing my jeans and my jacket, and off he went.”

Mr Jose and Ms Jaivin were horrified to learn Mr Liu was apprehended in the street by an unmarked van just hours later.

He spent 18 months in jail, the first of many stints in detention. But despite heavy surveillance and censorship Liu Xiaobo continued to publish abroad, unwavering in his condemnation of China’s lack of freedom..

While free he often travelled, lecturing in Australia in 1993. But Mr Liu never sought asylum from China.

“He was passionate about China and its future. I think he knew that’s where his destiny was,” Mr Jose said.

Through Nicholas Jose I met Liu Xiaobo in 1993 in Sydney. See also Nicholas Jose – Fiction and Non-fiction (2005) and Linda Jaivin on Hou Dejian (2016) which includes links to several other past posts of mine. See also Linda Jaivan A Nobel Affair.

One post is worth reposting as it summarises the ideas that got Liu Xiaobo into trouble, but which China really needs to hear:

Dr. LIU Xiaobo is a renowned Chinese literary critic, dissident writer and human rights activist based in Beijing, as well as the Honorary President of the ICPC (Independent Chinese PEN Centre). On 8 December 2008, Dr. Liu was taken into the Police custody and now serves a sentence of 11 years for what he wrote…

What did he write?

Many things, but his participation in the Charter of Human Rights in China (Charter 08) has been the cause both of his Nobel Prize and his imprisonment.

II. Our Fundamental Concepts 
At this historical juncture of the future destiny of China, it is necessary to rethink the last 100 years of modernization and reaffirm the following concepts:
Freedom: Freedom is at the core of universal values. The rights of speech, publication, belief, assembly, association, movement, and to demonstrate are all the concrete realizations of freedom. If freedom is not flourishing, then there is no modern civilization of which to speak.
Human Rights: Human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are rights that each person is born with and enjoys. To ensure/guarantee human rights must be the foundation of the first objective of government and lawful public authority, and is also the inherent demand of “putting people first.” The past political calamities of China are all closely related to the disregard of human rights by the ruling authorities.
Equality: Each individual, regardless of social status, occupation, gender, economic situation, ethnic group, skin color, religion, or political belief, is equal in human dignity and freedom. The principle of equality before the law and a citizen’s society must be implemented; the principle of equality of economic, cultural, and political rights must be implemented.
Republicanism: Republicanism is “governing together; living peacefully together,” □ that is, the decentralization of power and balancing of interests, that is comprised of diverse interests, different social groups, pluralistic culture and groups seeking religious belief, on the foundation of equal participation, peaceful competition, public discussion, and peaceful handling of public affairs.
Democracy: The most basic meaning is that sovereignty resides in the people and the people elect government. Democracy has the following basic characteristics: (1) the legitimacy of government comes from the people, the source of government power is the people; (2) government must be chosen by the people; (3) citizens enjoy the right to vote, important civil servants and officials of all levels should be produced through elections at fixed times; (4) the decisions of the majority must be respected while protecting the basic rights of the minority. In a word, democracy will become the modern tool for making government one “from the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Constitutionalism: Constitutionalism is the principle of protecting basic constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms and rights of citizens through law and a rule of law, delimiting the boundaries of government power and actions, and providing corresponding systemic capacity.
In China, the era of imperial power has long passed and will not return; in the world, authoritarian systems are approaching the dusk of their endings. The only fundamental way out for China: citizens should become the true masters of the nation, throw off the consciousness of reliance on a wise ruler or honest and upright official, make widely public civic consciousness of the centrality of rights and the responsibility of participation, and practice freedom, democracy, and respect for law.
III. Our basic standpoint 
In line with a responsible and constructive citizens’ spirit towards the country’s political system, civil rights and various aspects of social development, we put forward the following specific standpoints:

  1. Amend the Constitution: Based on the aforementioned values and concepts, amend the Constitution, abolishing the provisions in the current Constitution that are not in conformity with the principle that sovereignty resides in the people so that the Constitution can truly become a document for guaranteeing human rights and [appropriate use of] public power. The Constitution should be the implementable supreme law that any individual, group or party shall not violate, and lay the legal foundation for the democratization of China.
  2. Separation and balance of power: A modern government that separates, checks and keeps balance among powers guarantees the separation of legislative, judicial, and administrative power. The principle of governing by laws and being a responsible Government shall be established. Over-expansion of executive power shall be prevented; the Government shall be responsible to the taxpayers; the separation, checking and keeping balance of powers between the central and local governments shall be set up; the central power authority shall be clearly defined and mandated by the Constitution, and the local governments shall be fully autonomous.
  3. Democratize the lawmaking process: All levels of the legislative bodies shall be directly elected. Maintain the principles of fairness and justice in making law, and democratize the lawmaking process.
  4. Independence of the judiciary: The judiciary shall be nonpartisan, free from any interference. Ensure judicial independence, and guarantee judicial fairness. Establish a Constitutional Court and a system of judicial review; maintain the authority of the Constitution. Abolish as soon as possible the Party’s Committees of Political and Legislative affairs at all levels that seriously endanger the country’s rule of law. Avoid using public tools for private objectives.
  5. Public institutions should be used for the public: Realize the nationalization of the armed forces. The military shall be loyal to the Constitution and to the country. The political party organizations in the armed forces should be withdrawn. The level of military professionalism should be raised. All civil servants including the police shall remain politically neutral. Discrimination in employment of civil servants based on party preference should be eliminated and equal employment without any party preference should be adopted.
  6. Protect human rights: Protection of human rights should be effectively implemented and human dignity should be safeguarded. A Commission on Human Rights shall be established that is responsible to the highest level of authority representing public opinion. [This Commission] will prevent government abuse of public power and violation of human rights, and especially protect the personal freedom of citizens. All persons should be be free from unlawful arrest, detention, summons, interrogation, and punishment. The system of Reeducation-Through-Labor should be abolished.
  7. Election of public officials: The democratic electoral system should be fully implemented, with the realization of the equal voting right of one person one vote. Direct election of all levels of administrative heads should be institutionalized step by step. Free competition in the elections on a regular basis and citizen participation in the election of public officials are inalienable basic human rights.
  8. Urban and rural equality: The current urban-rural household registration system should be repealed. The equal rights for all citizens guaranteed by the Constitution should be implemented. The freedom of movement for citizens should be protected.
  9. Freedom of association: Citizens’ right to freedom of association shall be safeguarded. The current system for registration and examination before approval for civil society organizations should be changed to a registration and recording system. The ban on freely organizing political parties should be lifted. All activities of parties should be regulated by the Constitution and law. One-party monopolization of ruling privileges should be abolished. The principle of freedom of activities of political parties and fair competition should be established. The normalization of party politics and a rule by law should be realized.
  10. Freedom of assembly: Peaceful assembly, protest, demonstration and freedom of expression are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They should not be subject to unlawful interference and unconstitutional restrictions by the ruling party and the government.
  11. Freedom of expression: The freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom should be implemented. Citizens’ right to know and to monitor supervise should be protected. A press and publication law should be promulgated. The ban on freely publishing newspapers should be lifted. The current provision of “inciting subversion of state power” in the Criminal Law should be repealed and criminal punishment for speech should be eliminated.
  12. Freedom of religion: Freedom of religion and freedom of belief should be protected. Religion and politics should be separated. Religious activities should be free from government interference. All administrative regulations, administrative rules and local regulations and rules that restrict or deprive citizens’ freedom of religion should be reviewed and repealed. Management of religious activities by administrative legislature should be prohibited. The current prior approval system in which religious groups (including places of worship) must be registered before obtaining legal status should be abolished, and instead, a new record-keeping system for religious groups and their worship places should replace the current one.
  13. Citizen Education: Abolish political education and examinations that are deeply ideological and serve one-party rule. Promote citizen education that encompasses universal values and civil rights, establishes civil consciousness, and promotes the civil virtue of serving society.
  14. Property Protection: Establish and protect private property rights, implement a free and open market economy, protect the freedom of entrepreneurship, and eliminate administrative monopoly; set up a state-owned property management committee that is responsible to the highest legislative agency, initiate property rights reforms legally and orderly, make clear the property rights of owners and obligors, initiate a new land movement, advance land privatization, and strictly protect citizens’, in particular, farmers’, land rights.
  15. Fiscal Reforms: Firmly establish democracy in finance and protect taxpayers’ rights. Build a public finance system and operational mechanisms in which powers and obligations are clear, and create a reasonable and effective division of power in finance among all levels of government; implement major reforms in the tax system to reduce the tax rate, simplify the tax system, and achieve tax equity. The administrative departments should not be allowed to increase tax or create new tax arbitrarily without a social public choice and resolutions of the legislative agencies. Pass reforms on property rights, introduce diverse market subjects and competition mechanisms, lower the market-entry threshold in banking, and create conditions for the development of privately-owned banking to energize the financial system.
  16. Social Security: Build a social security system that covers all of the citizens, and provide them with fundamental protections for education, medical care, elderly care and employment.
  17. Environmental Protection: Protect the ecological environment, promote sustainable development, and take up responsibility to future generations and humanity; enforce the respective responsibilities of the state and government officials of all levels; perform the function of participation and supervision by civil organizations on environmental protection.
  18. Federal Republic: Participate in and maintain regional peace and development with an equal and fair attitude, and create an image of a responsible great country. Protect the free systems of Hong Kong and Macao. Under the precondition of freedom and democracy, seek a settlement resolution on cross-strait relations by way of equal negotiation and cooperative interaction. Explore possible ways and an institutional design to promote the mutual prospects of all ethnicities with great wisdom, and to establish China’s federal republic under the structure of democracy and constitutionalism.
  19. Transitional Justice: Rehabilitate the reputation of and give state compensation to the victims who suffered political persecution during past political movements as well as their families; release all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and people who are convicted because of their beliefs; establish a truth commission to restore historical truth, to pursue accountability and to fulfill justice; seek a settlement of the society on this foundation.

Back fifty years…

This death notice came as a shock, but also took me back. Annette Perry, as she was then, was a colleague at Cronulla High School fifty years ago. Later she married another colleague, Lawrie Butterfield. They entered my life again in 1977-78 when I was working in teacher education at Sydney University. Through Annette and Lawrie I became involved in the Balmain Theatre Group at that time. Annette and Lawrie were then living in Rozelle, I in Glebe. As I noted in 2009:  “I was fortunate enough to meet [playwright] Alex Buzo on several occasions, most memorably when I played a Rugby League commentator in his The Roy Murphy Show for the Balmain Theatre Group in 1978.” I note that Lawrie went on to be Principal of the Open High School in Randwick: see (2004) Gift of languages on his tongue and world at his feet. According to Annette’s death notice she was aged 75, living  in Sunbury, Victoria, when she passed away. There is to  be a memorial service in Sydney.

Back to when and where Annette, Lawrie and I first met:

How young we were!

Yes, not all that much older than the class. And a good English class it was too! There’s a present Professor from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and U Sydney in the back row for starters…


Thanks to Marilyn Markham (Berriman) Cronulla High Class of 68. I think that’s her end front row right.

Midnight Shift bar is now history

Thanks to James O’Brien I learn that the downstairs bar of Oxford Street’s Midnight Shift is being pensioned off. Do look at James’s post where there are some great memories and photos.

Here are some archived images of my own.

 The Empress and Kiwi Nick emerge from the Midnight Shift, late afternoon Sunday
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January 14, 2009

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No flash; I wanted the tank itself to provide the light. What do you think? Yes, it’s grainy – but I don’t mind that.

 January 31, 2011

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June gone already! And what a time for news!

Just as well you aren’t depending on this blog to keep you up-to-date, as there has been a bit of a break here as I nursed my remaining data allowance. And in that time we’ve had so many things happen, most recently the charging of Cardinal George Pell for alleged historic sex offences against children. He will be fronting court in Melbourne next month. I can’t help wondering what an old internet friend, Father Ken Sinclair, who died in 2005, would have had to say. Back in 2001-2 he was foreshadowing some of this stuff in conversations we had on ICQ. See my post Back to very early days–and the strange immortality of the internet.

Then today we have had Donald Trump showing what a small-minded vindictive arsehole he really is. no great surprise surely. Presidential? Pull the other one… And we’re supposed to trust the judgement of this person on the most important issues in the world? God help us all!

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And here in Oz Tony Abbott is in full feral mode. Rather liked former leader of his party John Hewson on this today.

…say what he likes, Abbott is still quite bitter and twisted about Turnbull seizing his job, and getting worse with time. His IPA speech this week was a clear example of “disloyalty”. Sure, he dressed it up as a speech of “principle” and “conviction” and true conservative “ideology”, but it was blatantly a direct attack on Turnbull, and his more “centrist” strategy, designed to undermine, and constrain Turnbull.

And a major part of the data from the 2016 Australian Census was released this week. That part concerning religion interested quite a few of us. Here are a couple of graphics from the Daily Mail.

41CA08CB00000578-4641728-image-a-8_1498523353300
41CA08B500000578-4641728-image-a-1_1498523288531The Daily Mail and the Sydney Daily Telegraph made much of a “surge in the number of Muslims”. As you might expect these days.  Headline:

Muslim population in Australia soars to 600,000 as religion becomes the nation’s second-biggest – a 77% jump in the past DECADE, according to Census

Soared to 2.6% of the population, of whom “radicals” must constitute… Well, you guess…

The really interesting figure was the rise of “No Religion” — whatever that might actually mean.

But now for the really important stats: in June the most viewed posts on this blog have been:

Home page / Archives   614 views in June 2017
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”  21
Testing for English competence?   18
A week of multicultural yums   17
On terror — just for the record   15
65 years on I recall Vermont Street  12
Otto Warmbier’s death underlines plight of thousands of North Koreans  12
Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”   11
Going, going… Myers in Wollongong  11
Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder   10
Wollongong High: more on the centenary More stats 10
Flowers and grief: for my mother  9
Tom Thumb Lagoon   9
Some great stories, and some of them new to me…  9

A recommendation from ten years ago

The post from June 2007 which follows needs updating: Strange Maps is still around and just as good, but has moved.

Maps

27 JUNE 2007
I love maps. Always have. You’ll notice that I now have a map as my masthead, and yes my place is in there somewhere, so there you see my little everyday world. Last April I referred to a marvellous blog called Strange Maps, which is often one of the top blogs here on WordPress.
Here are smaller versions of a couple of recent ones. You must visit Strange Maps to see them bigger, read about them, and start exploring the other maps.
First, 130 – A Ten-State Australia, which should interest Jim Belshaw and horrify John Howard, I suspect.

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Second, 131 – US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs.

usaaus.jpg

Fascinating site.