By: Amiyah King
The Washington National Cathedral recently housed upwards of 100 people for a memorial service that was one of dozens held this year for the same person.
Breaking records and statistics, Liu Xiaobo was not only the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, but was one of only three people to be given such an honor, while being held in imprisonment. Xiaobo orchestrated the Tiananmen Four Gentleman Hunger Strike in 1989, which consisted of himself and students of Beijing Normal University. When questioned about having involvement with the movement, Liu was later arrested and expelled from his school. He was released 19 months after his arrest and immediately returned to the political and activist arena as a writer and commentator.
For 18 years, Liu diligently advocated his platform of anti-communism and fought for democracy in China. He was faced with much adversity from the government, which often led to legal action. In 2008, Liu encountered, again, a literally life-crippling arrest. He was imprisoned under the pretenses of his activism, which included signature petitioning. A rendering trial, composed of appeals and retrials, never came to an end before Liu’s death. In fact, Gabe Rottman of PenAmerica said he and his team had “been involved in the active case for years.” Rottman emphasized that his organization “fights for the rights of authors, speakers and activists, who were wrongly persecuted—like Liu Xiaobo.”
Other nations, however, seemed to have a supreme appreciation for Liu and his work in China. To express such gratitude, he was awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
In May 2017, Liu was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Shortly after, Liu died in custody in Shenyang’s First Hospital of China Medical University.
Months after his death, many gathered in D.C. to honor the life and legacy of Liu Xiaobo. On Thursday, October 19, 2017, a memorial service was held for the political activist at National Cathedral. “The Cathedral has had a long-term commitment to upholding human rights around the world. We have tried to be a megaphone for values of human dignity and honor,” said Kevin Eckstrom, chief communications officer at the Cathedral. The Cathedral staff was “honored” to host the memorial service, Eckstrom said.
Liu’s influence reigned far beyond China and its borders. His actions touched many Chinese natives who had been given a second chance in the U.S., like Rissa—a fourth year university student in D.C. Rissa heard about the memorial through an Eventbrite invitation and began researching the mogul. Although she said she “[doesn’t] know specifics” regarding Liu’s fight for equality, Rissa ensured that she felt as though his actions affected her from across the globe and “her family back home.”
Liu Xiaobo spent his entire adult life fighting for the rights of the Chinese. He may have lost a secular battle to nature, but his fight for democracy in China will surely carry on.