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Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
After eight plus years in a Chinese prison, civil rights campaigner, Nobel Peace Prize winner and China’s most well-known political prisoner Liu Xiaobo was released on medical parole. In May, he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.
Liu, 61, was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison after penning a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, which says: “Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.”
More than 300 Chinese signed Charter 08 before it was publicly released on December 10, 2008, and many more signed after. Charter 08 was a clear nod to Charter 77, a petition drawn up by Czechoslovakian writers and intellectuals demanding that the Communist government of Czechoslovakia recognize basic human rights.
Support for these activists has waned in recent years. Some U.S. policy leaders and agenda-setters have backed away from supporting democracy and human rights campaigners in China, as business relationships have been seen as more important. However, strong democratic countries like the United States need to continue supporting basic human rights and advancing universal democratic values. The two are not mutually exclusive.
The Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative works to encourage U.S. leadership in extending freedom to people everywhere. Liu is far from the only individual imprisoned fighting for basic rights. Women’s rights campaigners, religious leaders, journalists, academics, bloggers, publishers, human rights lawyers and even foreign non-governmental organization workers around the world have been detained and sentenced for standing up for human liberties.
The Bush Institute elevates freedom advocates like Cuba’s Oscar Biscet who risk everything for liberty, helps develop a new generation of democratic leaders in Burma, and advances policy and action to improve the human condition in North Korea.
In doing so, the Bush Institute stands with those who are struggling against oppression and reminds Americans how precious our own freedom is.
Ioanna Papas is an Editorial Manager for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Before joining the Bush Institute Ioanna worked at Golin and strategically supported her client, Texas Instruments, in making a move from traditional public relations to content marketing with a focus on social media influencers. Prior to joining Golin, she provided support and expertise for a number of clients including Dish Network, UT Southwestern, Sabre Technologies, HOLT CAT, Hillwood and Benefitfocus. In these roles, she assisted in media relations, external campaign development and execution, and provided writing, editing and strategic implementation support.
Ioanna graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in online journalism. After completing multiple internships, one resulting in an article published in the New York Times and winning the Investigative Reporters and Editors student award for investigative reporting, she pursued a journalism career in Beaumont, Texas.Full Bio
Chinese Prisoner’s Death Holds a Message for Americans and China
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe