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Dissident visited UH-Manoa in first trip outside China in 1989

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services

LAST UPDATED: 1:43 a.m. HST, Oct 9, 2010

Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, spent a few months at the University of Hawaii during his first trip outside of China.

Liu was a visiting professor at UH-Manoa in the spring of 1989 but left Hawaii when university students in China began democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Liu is credited with saving the lives of many of the students by persuading them to leave before Chinese army tanks rolled into the square on June 4, 1989.

Roger Ames, a philosophy professor at UH-Manoa, hosted Liu in Hawaii from January through March 1989, where the former Beijing Normal University professor participated in graduate seminars in philosophy and Chinese studies. Ames remembers a passionate, strong-willed man with deeply held beliefs.

HRIC: Human Rights In China

Ames said he is not surprised that Liu was willing to go to jail rather than compromise.

"He's somebody who is trying to move things ahead by peaceful means," Ames said. "He's an impassioned, single-minded representative of a different vision for China than the government has."

Ames said Liu favored Western ideas over traditional Chinese philosophies. He recalled a heated argument between a UH faculty member and Liu during a lecture Liu gave comparing Taoism and Nietzscheanism.

Liu's visit to Hawaii came during a turning point in his life — his first trip outside of China. It came in between stints as a visiting scholar at the University of Oslo and Columbia University.

Liu's writings became more political during his time abroad.

UH faculty are also active in the effort to get the Chinese government to free Liu.

UH law school professor Alison Conner is among a number of scholars, lawyers and human rights activists who have lobbied the Chinese government to release Liu.

"He's advocated peaceful change, democracy by peaceful means," she said. "I think the way he was tried is just terrible."

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