We will never forget Liu Xiaobo: Human rights advocates honour Nobel Laureate

OTTAWA – Today, on the anniversary of the death of Liu Xiaobo, human rights groups commemorated the incredible life of the Nobel Laureate, writer, philosopher, and lifelong advocate for human rights in China.

Amnesty International, the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, and the Alliance Canada Hong Kong laid a commemorative wreath on the Liu Xiaobo Empty Chair Memorial, which sits in Ottawa on the front lawn of the Canadian offices of Amnesty International.

“We must honour Liu Xiaobo’s legacy and remember that his fight for a free, democratic China is far from over,” said Cheuk Kwan, of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China (TADC). “This small gesture of remembrance serves to remind us that his spirit will never fade, even as we witness the horrifying deterioration of human-rights in Hong Kong.”

On June 30, almost two weeks before the anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s death, Chinese authorities approved the passage of the national security law, banning all individuals, institutions, and organizations in Hong Kong from “engaging in activities that endanger national security”.

The broad, vaguely defined offences under this new legislation similarly feature in China’s own National Security Law, which has been used to crack down on dissent.

“It was only a year ago when we witnessed the horrific human-rights crackdown in Hong Kong, as authorities clamped down on millions of people taking to the streets in protest of a proposed extradition law,” said Cherie Wong, of the Alliance Canada Hong Kong, who presented the wreath on behalf of TADC and the Alliance Canada Hong Kong. “Now, we have seen Chinese authorities go a step further in criminalizing all forms of dissent under this dangerous new national security law.”

Among his many accomplishments, Liu Xiaobo co-wrote Charter 08, a manifesto calling for freedom of expression, human rights, and political reforms in China. He was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2009.

Nearly a year later, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Chinese government refused to allow him to travel to Oslo to receive the prize. His absence was marked by an empty chair on stage during the award ceremony.

Liu died in prison of liver cancer on July 13, 2017, after Chinese authorities refused his request to seek treatment abroad.

“Three years after Liu Xiaobo’s death, we are reminded that we must do everything we can to uphold his powerful legacy,” said Ihsaan Gardee, Director of Programs and Communications at Amnesty International. “Whether in China or elsewhere, we will continue holding all governments to account until we see human rights for everyone.”

Canadian sculptor Ruth Abernethy created a bronze replica of the “empty chair”, which was unveiled on the front lawn of Amnesty International’s Ottawa office during a ceremony on Aug. 13, 2019.

Members of the public are welcome to visit the Liu Xiaobo Empty Chair Memorial at 312 Laurier Ave. East, Ottawa.

Media contacts:

Cheuk Kwan, Toronto Association for Democracy in China, (416) 804 1527, ckwan@tissa.com

Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada (English branch), 613-853-2142, lscholey@amnesty.ca