Thursday, December 09, 2010

Words a Cell Can’t Hold: Honoring Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo's Portrait at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway
Credit: Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

"Today, the values of democracy, open society, respect for human rights, and equality are becoming recognized all over the world as universal values. To my mind there is an intimate connection between democratic values, such as transparency, the rule of law and freedom of information, and the fundamental values of human goodness."
- The Dalai Lama (from his Facebook page December 10, 2010)

Liu Xiaobo, poet and literary critic, today received in absentia the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Chinese authorities forbade Liu from traveling to the award ceremony and harshly criticized the selection of Liu Xiaobo. Liu is currently incarcerated as a political prisoner in China where he is serving an 11-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power" because he was involved in the creation of a manifesto known as Charter 08 calling for democratic reform in China.

On stage in Oslo, a large scale photo of Liu Xiaobo smiled down upon the audience of dignitaries, politicians, human rights workers and concerned world citizens. An empty chair marked Liu's place. Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee said,"We regret that the laureate is not present. He is in isolation in a prison in northern China. Nor can the laureate's wife, Liu Xia, or his closest relatives be with us. This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate. We congratulate Liu Xiaobo with this year's peace prize."

President Obama, who received the Nobel prize last year, said via a statement: "Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law. The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible."

During the ceremony, the Norwegian actress and director Liv Ullmann read from Liu's writing: "I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme."

Gregg Chadwick
Under the Lapis Sky
76cm x 54cm monotype on paper 2010

In honor of the event, the New York Times published Liu's poem
Words a Cell Can’t Hold.

Words a Cell Can’t Hold

Translated by Jeffrey Yang from the Chinese
Published: December 8, 2010

from “Experiencing Death”

I had imagined being there beneath sunlight
with the procession of martyrs
using just the one thin bone
to uphold a true conviction
And yet, the heavenly void
will not plate the sacrificed in gold
A pack of wolves well-fed full of corpses
celebrate in the warm noon air
aflood with joy

Faraway place
I’ve exiled my life to
this place without sun
to flee the era of Christ’s birth
I cannot face the blinding vision on the cross
From a wisp of smoke to a little heap of ash
I’ve drained the drink of the martyrs, sense spring’s
about to break into the brocade-brilliance of myriad flowers

Deep in the night, empty road
I’m biking home
I stop at a cigarette stand
A car follows me, crashes over my bicycle
some enormous brutes seize me
I’m handcuffed eyes covered mouth gagged
thrown into a prison van heading nowhere

A blink, a trembling instant passes
to a flash of awareness: I’m still alive
On Central Television News
my name’s changed to “arrested black hand”
though those nameless white bones of the dead
still stand in the forgetting
I lift up high up the self-invented lie
tell everyone how I’ve experienced death
so that “black hand” becomes a hero’s medal of honor

Even if I know
death’s a mysterious unknown
being alive, there’s no way to experience death
and once dead
cannot experience death again
yet I’m still
hovering within death
a hovering in drowning
Countless nights behind iron-barred windows
and the graves beneath starlight
have exposed my nightmares
online exhibition to mark the continuing injustices
Besides a lie
I own nothing

More at:
Nobel Peace Center Website
At Peace Prize Ceremony, Winner’s Chair Stays Empty

Liu Xiaobo
Credit: Independent Chinese PEN Centre

Also today to mark Human Rights Day 10 December 2010, Arts Showcase for Iran has created an online exhibition to draw renewed attention to the blatant disregard for human rights in Ahmadinejad's corrupt regime. The exhibit can be found at:
Speak 4 Iran