Liu Xiaobo: I Have No EnemiesPublished: Jul 17, 2017 Reading time: 10 minutes
Read one of the most famous essays of the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. He wrote it on the 23rd of December 2009, the day of his trial, being accused of inciting subversion of state power, and intended to read it in front of the jury as his final statement. Although he was not allowed to speak in the end, the article was later translated into many languages. This is one of the first translations - the one by Prof. David Kelly, as it first appeared at China Digital Times (February 2010).
June 1989 was the major turning point in my 50 years on life’s road. Before that, I was a member of the first group of students after restoration of the college entrance examination after the Cultural Revolution (1977); my career was s smooth ride from undergraduate to grad student through to PhD. After graduation I stayed on as a lecturer at Beijing Normal University. On the podium, I was a popular teacher, well received by students. I was at the same time a public intellectual. In the 1980s I published articles and books that created an impact, was frequently invited to speak in various places, and was invited to go abroad to Europe and the US as a visiting scholar. What I required of myself was: both as a person and in my writing, I had to live with honesty, responsibility and dignity. Subsequently, because I had returned from the US to take part in the 1989 movement, I was imprisoned for “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement to crime”, loding the platform which was my passion; I was never again allowed publish or speak in public in China. Simply for expressing divergent political views and taking part in a peaceful and democratic movement, a teacher loses his podium, a writer loses the right to publish, and a public intellectual loses the chance to speak publicly, which is a sad thing, both for myself as an individual, and for China after three decades of reform and opening up.
Thinking about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have all linked with courts; the two opportunities I had to speak in public have been provided by trials held in the People’s Intermediate Court in Beijing, one in January 1991 and one now. Although the charges on each occasion were different, they were in essence the same, both being crimes of expression.
Twenty years on, the innocent souls of June Fourth do not yet rest in peace, and I, who had been drawn into the path of dissidence by the passions of June Fourth, after leaving the Qincheng Prison in 1991, lost in the right to speak openly in my own country, and could only do so through overseas media, and hence was monitored for many years; placed under surveillance (May 1995–January 1996); educated through labour (October 1996–October 1999s), and now once again am thrust into the dock by enemies in the regime. But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my “June Second hunger strike declaration”— I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who have monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities, including Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present. I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on 3 December.
For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.
As we all know, reform and opening up brought about development of the state and change in society. In my view, it began with abandoning “taking class struggle as the key link,” which had been the ruling principle of the Mao era. We committed ourselves instead to economic development and social harmony. The process of abandoning the “philosophy of struggle” was one of gradually diluting the mentality of enmity, eliminating the psychology of hatred, and pressing out the “wolf’s milk” in which our humanity had been steeped. It was this process that provided a relaxed environment for the reform and opening up at home and abroad, for the restoration of mutual love between people, and soft humane soil for the peaceful coexistence of different values and different interests, and thus provided the explosion of popular creativity and the rehabilitation of warmheartedness with incentives consistent with human nature. Externally abandoning “anti-imperialism and anti-revisionism”, and internally, abandoning “class struggle” may be called the basic premise of the continuance of China’s reform and opening up to this day. The market orientation of the economy; the cultural trend toward diversity; and the gradual change of order to the rule of law, all benefited from the dilution of this mentality of enmity. Even in the political field, where progress is slowest, dilution of the mentality of enmity also made political power ever more tolerant of diversity in society, the intensity persecution of dissidents has declined substantially, and characterization of the 1989 movement has changed from an “instigated rebellion” to a “political upheaval.”
The dilution of the mentality of enmity made the political power gradually accept the universality of human rights. In 1998, the Chinese government promised the world it would sign the the two international human rights conventions of the UN, marking China’s recognition of universal human rights standards; in 2004, the National People’s Congress for the first time inscribed into the constitution that “the state respects and safeguards human rights”, signaling that human rights had become one of the fundamental principles of the rule of law. In the meantime, the present regime also proposed “putting people first” and “creating a harmonious society”, which signalled progress in the Party’s concept of rule.
This macro-level progress was discernible as well in my own experiences since being arrested.
While I insist on my innocence, and that the accusations against me are unconstitutional, in the year and more since I lost my freedom, I’ve experienced two places of detention, four pre-trial police officers, three prosecutors and two judges. In their handling of the case, there has been no lack of respect, no time overruns and no forced confessions. Their calm and rational attitude has over and again demonstrated goodwill. I was transferred on 23 June from the residential surveillance to Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau Detention Center No. 1, known as “Beikan.” I saw progress in surveillance in the six months I spent there.
I spent time in the old Beikan (Banbuqiao) in 1996, and compared with the Beikan of a decade ago, there has been great improvement in the hardware of facilities and software of management.
In particular, Beikan’s innovative humane management based on respecting the rights and dignity of detainees, implementing more flexible management of the will be flexible to the detainees words and deeds, embodied in the Warm broadcast and Repentance, the music played before meals, and when waking up and going to sleep, gave detainees feelings of dignity and warmth, stimulating their consciousness of keeping order in their cells and opposing the warders sense of themselves as lords of the jail, detainees, providing not only a humanized living environment, but greatly improved the detainees’ environment and mindset for litigation, I had close contact with Liu Zhen, in charge of my cell. People feel warmed by his respect and care for detainees, reflected in the management of every detail, and permeating his every word and deed. Getting to know the sincere, honest, responsible, good-hearted Liu Zhen really was a piece of good luck for me in Beikan.
Political beliefs are based on such convictions and personal experiences; I firmly believe that China’s political progress will never stop, and I’m full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme. I’m also looking forward to such progress being reflected in the trial of this case, and look forward to the full court’s just verdict ——one that can stand the test of history.
Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I’d say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, sweetheart, that I’m confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.
Given your love, sweetheart, I would face my forthcoming trial calmly, with no regrets about my choice and looking forward to tomorrow optimistically. I look forward to my country being a land of free expression, where all citizens’ speeches are treated the same; here, different values, ideas, beliefs, political views… both compete with each other and coexist peacefully; here, majority and minority opinions will be given equal guarantees, in particular, political views different from those in power will be fully respected and protected; here, all political views will be spread in the sunlight for the people to choose; all citizens will be able to express their political views without fear, and will never be politically persecuted for voicing dissent; I hope to be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisition, and that after this no one else will ever be jailed for their speech.
Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth.
I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.
December 23, 2009
Translated by David Kelly, Professor of China Studies, China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney.
From the book From Charter 77 to Charter 08: Liu Xiaobo — Life in Truth. (Library of the Czech Center of the P.E.N. International and People in Need, vol. 4th. Edited by Igor Blaževič. The book has been published thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Libor and Veronika Winkler).