CyberChina (170709-170714) & Some Thoughts on Liu Xiaobo’s Passing


R.I.P. Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo, China’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent dissident, died from organ failure at the age of 61 under guard at a Chinese hospital on July 13, less than a month after he was released from prison on medical parole.

I am not an activist. Neither is most of my friends. But his death is one of the few times I saw discussions almost synchronized across my social media feeds (last time I can recall is when well-known Chinese news anchor Chai Jing released her documentary Under The Dome). In addition to intellectuals, journalists and advocates whom you’d expect to voice on this tragic event, ordinary Chinese netizens are actively seeking ways to express condolences, engage in discussions or even just to find out more about Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize, Charter 08 etc — all of which have been censored to some degree on the Chinese internet.

There are enough media coverage on Liu’s passing. What we should reflect next is the significance and indications of Liu’s death: what it means for us as an individual, to China as a country that longs to become a global leader, and to the international community in general.

To each of us, the challenge lies in how not to let Liu Xiaobo and his legacy become one of the “Top 10 Trending Topics on Weibo” that would fade away as time goes by and more importantly, how not to let Liu Xiaobo become a collective amnesia. I am not saying that people, especially those based in mainland China, should take extreme forms of protests regardless of any consequences. Even simple acts such as telling friends who do not know or even hear of Liu Xiaobo, remembering and writing about him even in coded messages will be enough to keep the conversation and people’s interest going.

To Chinese leaders, how they deal with Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife who has effectively been under house arrest since Liu’s imprisonment, will make a difference in how the world sees their governance and legitimacy. This is also a moment for China to reflect on its development path as it longs to become a global leader. Does it want to be known as a country with only economic achievement and no amicable soft power or one that as it becomes more affluent also matures into a more humane and tolerant state? The first option has gotten China a ticket to many world clubs and international organizations. But will it help China be accepted and become a true rule maker?

Liu’s life and death also serves as a reminder of a conundrum individuals in China and Chinese leaders are facing: to what extent free thoughts are allowed? What is the line between innovative ideas and dissident voices that are “subversive”, “harmful to society” or “endangering national security”?  Thanks to the government’s grand plans and almost unlimited resources on “Internet Plus”, artificial intelligence, etc, China is catching up, if not exceeding, Western countries in new technologies. New technologies are usually disruptive and require unconventional thinking that may break current social norms or even political orders. Right now China is doing a good job at keeping its talents and innovators in line whose main focus are to make money. But as more Chinese companies are eying overseas markets and that more individuals are educated with and trained to have critical thinking abilities, will the current governance model be able to attract talents to work for the country, keep generating new ideas and advance technologies while prohibiting people from thinking out of the box when it comes to political and societal issues?

As for world leaders, in a time of China’s economic rise and the world’s increasing challenges of national security and information wars, Liu Xiaobo’s passing should act as an awakening moment to ponder upon how to balance trade and human rights issues with the country.
Some Liu Xiaobo-related articles that are worth your read:

Full text of Charter 08, translated from Chinese by Perry Link

ChinaFile, Liu Xiaobo’s Three Refusals: No Enemies, No Hatred, No Lies

The New York Review, Liu Xiaobo: The Man Who Stayed by Ian Johnson


Information Control

Sina, Foreign Shows Removed from Popular Chinese Video-streaming Site

Global Times, Cyber regulators deny rumors they approved VPN service

Global Times, Hi-tech firms increasingly setting up CPC committees


SpyDealer: Android Trojan Spying on More Than 40 Apps

With the prevalence of Google Android smartphones and the popularity of feature-rich apps, more and more people rely on smartphones to store and handle kinds of personal and business information which attracts adversaries who want to steal that information. Recently, Palo Alto Networks researchers discovered an advanced Android malware we’ve named “SpyDealer” which exfiltrates private data from more than 40 apps and steals sensitive messages from communication apps by abusing the Android accessibility service feature. SpyDealer uses exploits from a commercial rooting app to gain root privilege, which enables the subsequent data theft.

Politics & Tech

Financial Times, China enlists start-ups in high-tech arms race

Bloomberg, Apple to Build First China Data Center to Comply with Law

TechLekh, Nepal To Be Connected with Chinese Internet in August