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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Liu Xiaobo—The Nobel Peace Prize Winner is a Poet in Prison

By October 12, 2010

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The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, an unwavering (some might say stubborn) advocate for human rights and freedom of expression who is also a poet and literary critic. Liu Xiaobo is in prison in China, serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power,” and the Chinese government has reacted angrily to the award, calling it “blasphemy” and Liu a criminal. It was several days after the Nobel Committee’s announcement before Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia was permitted to visit and tell him of the award, and he has dedicated it to the victims of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy movement demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

Our profile of Liu Xiaobo includes links to the very few of his poems that you can read online in English translation—all of which were written in the late 1990s, a period when he spent three years in a rural labor camp for “re-education” and all of which are dedicated to his wife Xia.

This makes two poet-Peace Prize winners in a row—remember, Barack Obama was also a poet in his younger days.


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