Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose words appear in The Verso Book of Dissent, once wrote: “it is more dangerous to stop people’s mouths than to dam a river. The tall prison walls cannot hold back free expression.” Yesterday, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and, predictably, the Chinese government—who served him an eleven-year prison sentence for organizing Charter 08—has blacked out the announcement nationwide, and threatened a deterioriation of relations with Norway. If not for the many dissident bloggers and activists within China, who risk persecution by continuing to fight against the authoritarian regime, the government might be able to claim that the Nobel Committee just decided to skip 2010!
Fortunately, Liu Xiaobo and the hundreds of signatories of Charter 08—a document, also appearing in the Book of Dissent, that called for democratization and reform—are only part of a rich tradition and movement of Chinese dissent. Wang Lixiong, co-author of Verso’s The Struggle for Tibet was also a signatory of Charter 08. “A regime cannot establish its legitimacy by suppressing different political views, nor can it maintain lasting peace and stability through literary inquisition,” wrote Liu. “For the problems that come from the barrel of a pen can only be resolved by the barrel of a pen.”