What do Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Liu Xiaobo all have in common? Easy: they are all recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, one name stands out from the rest: Liu Xioabo, a man who has been imprisoned since 2009. Liuhas been sentenced to eleven years of imprisonment and from 2009 to 2011 he was deprived of all political rights by court order. While this is not the first time that Liu has been imprisoned (he has served time four times in his life), his current sentence is by far the longest. Furthermore, Liu's wife Liu Xia has been under house arrest since October 2010, living under "inhumane conditions."
Liu's conditions are largely unknown, but many, including Amnesty International, fear the worst the Chinese can offer. The most startling aspect of the Liu Xiaobo case has not just been his arrest for subversion, as his fellow activist Ai Weiwei was in 2011, but the lack of American support for an activist who has been a strong supporter of the United States.
Liu is a very controversial figure in China. Despite being a noted author and having a Ph.D in literature, all of his works are banned. Despite being painted as a hero for being one of the "four junzis of Tiananmen Square" who convinced hundreds of college students to leave the streets, thus saving their lives, the Chinese government was quick to label him as treasonous for his views on Hong Kong. The Chinese government has censored his very name from publications and the press.
His freelance writings have inspired the ire of both the Chinese government and Confucian activists, both of whom Liu Xiaobo has criticised in his writings. However, Liu has inspired millions in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China to reassess their views on the "revolutionary" Chinese administration and on the West as well. Liu has consistently been the West's greatest political ally in China due to his great approval of the United States; he has supported the United States in foreign matters from the Cold War to the Iraq War. In his 1996 article "Lessons from the Cold War" Liu posited that "The free world led by the U.S. fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights ... The major wars that the U.S. became involved in are all ethically defensible." The scholar's positions on the U.S. and the wars it has fought (despite his positions on the wars and Islam being very contentious in both China and the West) cements Liu Xiaobo as a firm friend of the United States and the West. So what have the United States done to get the Chinese Government to release Liu Xiaobo?
The truth is very little
Shortly after Liu Xiaobo's initial arrest in December 2008 for his involvement in the publication of Charter 08, a pro-western manifesto which called for the Chinese government to be reformed to be more democratic, the State Department of the United States issued a public demand to the Chinese Government demanding Liu's immediate release ... and then never brought the matter up again. The State Department gave the problem to the United Nations to solve, and the UN have accomplished nothing beyond a hearing which ruled that Liu Xiaobo was given an unfair trial and again asking that he be released ... then never brought the matter up again. The simple truth of the matter is that the West has abandoned their loyal Chinese friend to his fate and will likely do nothing to assist him.
The last time Liu Xiaobo's fate or existence has been mentioned by the U.S. government was in 2010, when a bi-partisan group of 30 members of the U.S. Congress wrote President Barack Obama a passionate letter pleading for the president to discuss the release of Liu Xiaobo and fellow activist Gao Zhisheng at the G-20 Summit with President Hu Jintao. China responded to the president's and Congress's requests with a statement from the Republic of China (Taiwan) President Ma Ying-jiu, who congratulated Liu on his Nobel Peace Prize but reaffirmed that he would not be released anytime soon. With that statement, the world seemingly forgot about Liu Xiaobo and resigned him to his life in prison, content to see him become the next Nelson Mandela.