The case of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo flared up in the American media this weekend, after Liu’s wife Liu Xia published a Washington Post editorial asking President Barack Obama to help get him released from jail.
Liu Xiaobo was one of the original drafters of Charter 08, a political reform and human rights document, and was arrested last December along with two other intellectuals. His wife’s recent treatise urged the US President to get directly involved in Liu’s case, because she fears that the Chinese “government is preparing to stage a show trial” to put away her husband for good.
Although Liu’s case immediately became an international news story when he was first detained, spawning petitions for his release, appeals from the Committee to Protect Journalists, and involvement from Amnesty International, he was largely dropped from the public eye in past months.
With the publication of Liu Xia’s editorial, American media including the Washington Post and the New York Times have once again picked up the story. On Thursday, Liu was named the 2009 winner of the PEN/Barbara Goldman Freedom to Write award.
The question now is whether attention by the American media will do anything to help Liu Xiaobo’s case. American readers who commented on the Washington Post editorial mostly expressed sympathy for the Liu’s and indignation with the Chinese government, but added that the U.S. is not in a position to help him. The only major Chinese newspaper that reported on Liu Xia’s editorial or Liu Xiaobo’s award was Taiwan’s Taipei Times, which represented Liu in a positive light and overwhelmingly quoted his supporters, but did not indicate that anything was being done by the American or Chinese government.
Both the Taipei Times and Liu Xia expressed great faith in the power of the American press to affect political decisions in China. On the basis of a few articles and Liu’s PEN award, the Taipei Times represented the U.S.’s involvement in the case as a campaign of “US human rights activists,” and Liu Xia directly asked President Obama to “intervene” on her husband’s behalf.
But given the fact that there has been no response from the American government and that Liu Xiaobo’s story has failed to appear in most Chinese media, it looks like that kind of faith may be outdated or just misplaced.
Photo from EastSouthWestNorth blog.