China like Nazis? RIP: Liu Xiaobo (1955 – 217)

As Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo died in the hospital under close guard of the regime many observers are bringing the example of another Nobel Prize winner Carl von Ossietzky who died in Nazi hospital. What do you think about this comparison, what does it tell us about Chinese regime?

Kerry BrownProfessor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute, King’s College, London

At a time when China is riding high and looking like a global leader, the death of Liu and the circumstances around it are a devastating loss of face. This is lose lose – a tragic loss for  Liu’s wife and family and friends – a needless and humiliating loss for China. That Liu so courageously stayed in China when so many other dissidents went into exile means that after his death he will forever have the moral high ground. No one can ever take that from him now. And that will only grow stronger with time. Before his death he was a thorn in the government’s side. After his demise he will be much much worse – an authentic, irreproachable martyr.

Angela StanzelPolicy Fellow Asia Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations

As for your question I (as a German in particular) would not make this comparison. Even though the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party is violating human rights, freedom of speech etc it really cannot be compared to Hitler’s rule. But a few remarks nevertheless: Western/European governments should not forget that there are hundreds maybe thousands of similar but unknown or not as prominent imprisoned writers, lawyers and activists in Chinese prisons and we should therefore maintain the pressure on the Chinese government to give them a fair, or at least better, treatment than Liu Xiaobo. Secondly, the focus of governments now should also be on doing all possible to win the right to depart China for Liu Xia and the son.

Andrew Nathan, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Yes, I agree. What it tells me about the Chinese regime is that they feel vulnerable to being seen as weak. They don’t want to cave in to Western pressure. Don’t want to admit that they have done something wrong. They don’t want to show their own people that there is any softness in the regime’s determination to enforce its control of thought and speech. In this context I think it’s remarkable that they even agreed to invite the two Western doctors to come to the hospital. However, they made use of these doctors to publicize their claim that they were giving Liu first rate medical care.

Lawrence C. ReardonAssociate Professor of Political Science, Coordinator, Asian Studies Minor, University of New Hampshire

I enjoy such comparisons, as it forces people to realize that Liu Xiaobo was not just another troublesome political activist, but belongs to an outstanding group of human beings who openly stood up to oppression to warn people about party-state oppression.  Presenting the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu and Ossietzky illuminates such oppression.  The question is whether such illumination will impact the next generation.  Not many people outside of Sinologists and human rights activists will know who Liu was…and many will have forgotten about Ossietzky.  By forgetting the lessons of the past and ignoring violations of human rights today, we allow party-states to clothe themselves in nationalism and patriotism and openly oppress human rights.  The cost to humanity for ignoring the Nazi threat for so long was incalculable.  With Liu’s death, the question is whether the world has once again forgotten history and is allowing another human tragedy to develop.

Harold TannerProfessor of Chinese History, Department of History, University of North Texas

I can see the logic behind the comparison between the fate of von Ossietzky and that of Liu Xiaobo. In both cases we have a dissident who stood up to his own government, was imprisoned by a brutal dictatorial regime, and died as a result, despite having received global recognition for his willingness to take a peaceful and principled stand against injustice.

That said, I don’t think that the comparison tells us anything about the Chinese Communist Party regime that we did not know already: it i a brutal,corrupt regime that is determined to remain in power at all costs. But Liu’s death, and the fact that very few Chinese inside of China or even in other countries will know or, if they do know, care about it at all, does underline the fact that the Chinese Communist Party has been far more successful at maintaining power than the Communist Parties of the former Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist countries, to say nothing of the Nazi regime, whose Third Reich lasted less than two decades.

Vincent WangDean, School of Humanities and Sciences, Ithaca College

I am saddened and outraged by the poignant similarities between how Nazi Germany treated the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Carl von Ossietzky and how Communist China treated the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo: Both men were jailed for exercising their constitutional rights, tortured in prisons, released only when the regimes judged the alternative – that they died in prison – would be worse, and controlled by state security police even on their death beds.  Now that China has entered the World Trade Organization and hosted the Olympics, it may even have less incentive to compromise on international concern for human rights conditions in China.  The horrible way the Chinese regime treats its own people may answer Beijing’s own puzzle why the international respectability that it so coveted has been illusive and there continues to be widespread doubts and fears about a rising (but authoritarian) China.

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