Chinese Face Arrest as they Mourn Liu Xiaobo


Days after the death of Nobel Prize laureate and Chinese Democracy activist Liu Xiaobo died, supporters began a social media campaign of mourning. A common theme among photos people posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram was an empty chair by the sea. It symbolized the empty seat meant for Liu in Oslo, Norway, in 2010 when he was supposed to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” At the time he was imprisoned.

He remained in prison until he died of multiple organ failure that ended a long fight with liver cancer. Authorities cremated his body two days later on July 15 and reportedly forced his family to scatter his ashes into the sea to avoid commemorative activities.

So, his supporters took it to cyberspace and some posting from the mainland face imprisonment for it.

According to the social media campaign “Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group,” a man who placed flowers and candles shaped like a heart by the sea before posting a video online has been detained for questioning.

In regards to traditional Chinese beliefs, the spirit of the deceased returns to the world of the living to bid his farewell on the seventh day after he dies. Until then, the body must not be buried or cremated.

“Yet the Chinese authorities have denied Dr Liu the respect he deserved, forcing the family to make do with a hastily-arranged and secretive sea burial, and preventing friends from coming and saying their goodbye,” the movement’s organizer said in a Facebook post. “And they even dare to blame it on local customs, when Chinese customs is nothing of that sort. As such it is up to us, friends and supporters of Dr Liu Xiaobo, to give him the proper farewell he deserved.”

Searches under the hashtag and others in Chinese turned up no results on WeChat, a popular social media site on the mainland.

Liu was arrested for co-authoring Charter 08, which called for political reform in China and a move toward democracy. He was handed an 11-year sentence and reportedly denied contact with his family. Days before his death, authorities revealed his worsening medical condition and denied his family’s request to have him allowed overseas to seek treatment.

Liu was serving an 11-year prison sentence for being one of the key authors of Charter 08, which he helped to draft in 2008, calling for sweeping political reforms in China.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.