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Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
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.