The Berlin International Literature Festival teamed up with individual writers and literary organisations to commemorate Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is currently incarcerated as political prisoner in China
171 readings in 96 cities across 34 countries. These numbers illustrate the success of yesterday's international campaign called "Freedom for Liu Xiaobo". Liu was one of the authors of "Charta 08", a manifesto that calls for the modernisation of Chinese society, including freedom of expression, more democratic elements and economic liberalism. In 2009, he had been accused of "inciting of subversion of state power", as it was put, and subsequently sentenced to eleven years in prison.
Ulrich Schreiber organized the "Freedom for Liu Xiaobo" literary campaign
Ulrich Schreiber is director of the Berlin Literature Festival and the main organiser of the worldwide reading initiative. He says he wants to inform people about Liu's thoughts and his involvement in "Charta 08". "A lot of people mention this Charta. But I know from the past that not so many people read this kind of text, and they don't hear about it."
At the Berlin event, two actors read the entire text of the manifesto. They also presented two of Liu Xiaobo's poems. Additionally, a lawyer talked about the constitutional and political grounds upon which Liu's trial was based.
Participation across Asia
But not only German groups staged readings. Ulrich Schreiber and his team received word that various organisations across Asia were participating as well. For example "in India, in Hong Kong, and in the Philippines." He adds, '"We got, especially in the past days, new information about readings in other countries. So, I think this will be mentioned in Asia a lot."
Herta Müller supports the appeal to release Liu Xiaobo
Several well-known authors have signed an appeal to release Liu Xiaobo, among them Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, as well as the Nobel laureates Elfriede Jelinek, J.M. Coetzee, and Herta Müller. Schreiber says "Herta Müller wrote a letter to the Chinese government concerning Liu Xiaobo last year. And she wrote a lot about political freedom in Eastern Europe and especially in Romania."
Herta Müller, who received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, was present at the Berlin reading. She reflected on Liu's situation and put her expectations in particularly strong words: "We demand Liu Xiaobo's immediate release. Those who jailed him must be brought before a court. They have blood on their hands."
The annual book fair in Leipzig was another stage for the "Freedom for Liu Xiaobo" campaign
Meanwhile at the annual book fair in Leipzig, several publishers and activists staged public readings as well. Gerhard Ruiss from the Vienna-based "Writers' Interest Group" welcomed author Bei Ling who recently wrote a book on Liu Xiaobo's life and political struggle. Ruiss and Bei read a set of Liu's poems as well as texts by Liu's wife, Liu Xia. Ruiss says "Of course Bei Ling is participating in the worldwide readings, but here in Leipzig he only read from the newly-translated poems. He also talked about Liu and about his biography."
Although most writers do not expect to see Liu Xiaobo's release from prison any time soon, they do hope to put a good amount of pressure on politicians and officials to keep Liu's case high on the agenda.
Author: Thomas Völkner
Editor: Sarah Berning