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Welcome to Whose Century Is It?, a podcast exploring ideas, trends and twists shaping the 21st century, with stories and conversations from around the world.



Jul 17, 2017

Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo spent much of his life advocating for basic political rights and democracy in China. For that, he spent years imprisoned by a government that feels threatened by such demands. He was in prison when he won the Nobel Prize in 2010, serving 11 years for "subversion of state power," and he was in prison as his liver cancer advanced. He was released, under guard, to a state hospital, and died there July 13, 2017. Chinese authorities have repeatedly called Liu Xiaobo a criminal. They have censored information about him at home and appear to hope the world will forget him. That's unlikely. When an individual is brave enough to stand up to an authoritarian power on behalf of justice and rights for many, that stands out. And at a time when authoritarian tendencies are creeping in, in unexpected places, because people aren't always vigilant about protecting the democracy and rights they have, Liu's work and focus stand as a reminder that these things are precious to those who don't have them, and that authoritarians, once in power, rarely volunteer to cede power to citizens, unless pressure builds, and they have no other choice.