"POLITICAL DISSIDENCE is a great, and beautiful, mystery. For those living under repressive rule, the path of least resistance is, well, not to resist — to accommodate and survive, or, in less honorable but hardly rare cases, to collaborate. And yet, some do choose the more decent and difficult way. Out of idealism, necessity, sheer refusal to submit or some unfathomable combination of all three, they stand up, they speak out, they assume risks.
China’s Liu Xiaobo epitomized the dissident tradition, fighting back relentlessly but peacefully against a regime in his country that epitomized modern-day authoritarianism — until he died of liver cancer on Thursday at age 61.
Mr. Liu was born in 1955, amid the horrific throes of the early People’s Republic, and went on to study literature and philosophy, earning his doctorate in 1988. Moved by the fall of communism in Europe and the limited opening under Deng Xiaoping in China, he joined the student protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989. This conscientious activism earned him a two-year prison sentence. Later he served three years in a labor camp for other purported political offenses. Mr. Liu’s causes were liberty and democracy, which he considered universally applicable, not Western imports for which his native country was somehow ‘not ready.’ His specific demand was that the Chinese Communist authorities accept the need for a constitutional overhaul that would establish elections, rule of law and freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and of religion"