After Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese leading human rights fighter as well as the country’s lone Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died of liver cancer after years in prison on July 13, Tsai Ing-wen, the president of the Republic of China (ROC) — commonly referred to as Taiwan — expressed her condolences right away on her personal Twitter account. As part of her message, she encouraged Chinese people to follow Liu’s dream to pursue democracy.
Right after the news of Liu’s death exploded on the global internet, Tsai published a statement on Liu’s “tragic passing” in both Chinese and English, at around midnight in local time in Taiwan.
In the statement, Tsai first paid her “highest respects” to Liu Xiaobo, “this tireless advocate for human rights,” and expressed her “deepest condolences” to Liu’s family and his wife in particular. Then she proceeded to quote Liu’s words in his famous statement “No enemies, no hatred” which was read out by others as Liu’s Nobel lecture [Note: the translation of Liu’s words is slightly differently between the Nobel version and Tsai’s version. The following quotes the Nobel version:
I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme.
Most importantly, Tsai emphasized in her statement the value of freedom and called on China to pursue democracy, which, she pointed out, is also the key to better cross-strait relations:
We hope that the Chinese authorities can show confidence in engaging in political reform so that the Chinese can enjoy the God-given rights of freedom and democracy. This will be a turning point in cross-strait relations. The Chinese dream is not supposed to be about military might. It should be about taking ideas like those from Liu Xiaobo into consideration. Only through democracy, in which every Chinese person has freedom and respect, can China truly become a proud and important county.
Finally, she offered to help China achieve democracy and encouraged Chinese people to follow Liu’s dream:
If the Chinese Dream is democracy, then Taiwan will provide any assistance necessary to achieve this objective. I believe that this is what he would have wanted. Liu Xiaobo had no enemies, because democracy has no enemies. Again, I offer my respects towards his commitment to his ideals.
In fact, this is not the first time that Tsai discussed Liu Xiaobo and mainland China’s lack of democracy. On July 12, again on Twitter Tsai had demanded that China allow Liu “to seek treatment wherever he wishes” and she offered to “provide any medical assistance” for Liu in Taiwan. Also, on the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Incident, Tsai called on China to face up to history and pursue for democracy.
It’s noteworthy that Tsai tends to post tweets mainly in English and Japanese. Only on rare occasions, as mentioned above, does she post to Twitter in the Chinese language, targeting her main audience who speaks Chinese.
Unfortunately, most netizens in mainland China cannot log onto Twitter, as the social media site like many other Western websites, has been blocked by the Great Firewall.
Charlotte Gao holds a MA degree in Asian Studies. Her research interests center around East Asian topics. She has worked in the past as a news editor, reporter, and writer for multiple traditional, online, and new media outlets.