Liu Xiaobo, a prominent independent intellectual in China, is a long-time advocate of political reform and human rights in China, and an outspoken critic of the Chinese communist regime. Liu has been detained, put under house arrest, and imprisoned many times for his writing and activism. According to his lawyers’ defense statement in his 2009 trial, Liu has written nearly 800 essays, 499 of them since 2005. Liu is a drafter and a key proponent of Charter 08.
Liu was born on December 28, 1955 in Changchun, Jilin. He received a BA in literature from Jilin University, and an MA and PhD from Beijing Normal University, where he also taught.
In April 1989, he left his position as a visiting scholar at Columbia University to return to Beijing to participate in the 1989 Democracy Movement. On June 2, Liu, along with Hou Dejian, Zhou Duo, and Gao Xin, went on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square to protest martial law and appeal for peaceful negotiations between the students and the government. In the early morning of June 4, 1989, the four attempted to persuade the students to leave Tiananmen Square. After the crackdown, Liu was held in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison until January 1991, when he was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” but exempted from punishment.
In 1996, he was sentenced to three years of Reeducation-Through-Labor on charges of “rumor-mongering and slander” and “disturbing social order” after drafting the “Anti-Corruption Proposals” and letters appealing for official reassessment of the June Fourth crackdown.
On December 8, 2008, Liu was taken away from his Beijing home and detained by the Beijing police, and on December 25, 2009, more than a year later, he was found guilty of “inciting sub-version of state power.” By early March 2010, more than 600 co-signatories of Charter 08 signed an online “statement of shared responsibility” with Liu for his “crime.”
Liu served as President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center from 2003 to 2007. In addition to Columbia University, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Oslo and the University of Hawaii.
Liu is married to Liu Xia, a poet and visual artist whose work is featured throughout this issue.