Jailed Writer on Time 100 Roll

Outspoken Chinese rank high in early results.
2010-04-07
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Undated photo of Liu Xiaobo.
Undated photo of Liu Xiaobo.
Photo provided by Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia.

HONG KONG—Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and celebrity racing driver-turned-blogger Han Han are on the ballot as readers of the U.S.-based news magazine Time vote on the top 100 most influential people in the world.

Chinese official media have already ridiculed Han Han’s nomination while ignoring that of Liu, jailed last December for 11 years on subversion charges after he helped to draft Charter 08, a controversial document calling for sweeping political change in China.

Introducing Liu Xiaobo, Time wrote on its Web site that “Liu was a chief author of ‘Charter ‘08,’ a pro-democracy manifesto that called on the Communist Party to enact political reforms and uphold the constitutional rights of Chinese citizens.”

Charter 08 was signed by 303 mainland intellectuals and sent shockwaves through the highest echelons of China’s leadership.

Liu was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on Dec. 23, 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Blogger also on list

“Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 are political taboos in China,” fellow writer and member of the writers’ group Independent Chinese PEN Ye Du said.

“If the entire Time 100 poll list was reported, people would have known about them.”

Han Han, 27, is a hugely popular blogger. Time said that as “an avid rally car driver, he writes a mega-popular blog that pokes fun at prominent cultural figures and incompetent officials.”

Beijing-based scholar and blogger Ling Cangzhou said Han Han irritates Chinese censors regularly on sensitive issues.

“He is trying to explore and push further their bottom lines,” Ling said.

“I think Chinese conservatives dislike such a young rebel.”

The Time magazine poll page has already attracted comments from Chinese netizens, many of whom have endorsed Han Han, Liu, or both.

Chinese reaction

“When we win the vote, the winner is not only Han Han,” one commenter wrote.

“We are all makers of history, and thus voting online in the poll is more important than the result.”

Another post, signed “Villy Cai,” reads: “As a [journalism] student in China, I never read any reports or comments about him. That is ridiculous.”

“He sacrificed himself for something valuable. I respect him 100 percent.”

A post about Han Han by user “Henry Zhang” said:

“He is [one of] the few people in mainland China who is telling the truth and speaking out for most people against the corrupt government.”

By Tuesday, Han Han ranked 7th and Liu Xiaobo 38th among all 201 candidates.

Their early popularity may see them move on to the list of finalists, to be announced May 1.

The 2010 Time 100 poll has also listed China’s deputy premier Wang Qishan, gang-busting official Bo Xilai, and Internet entrepreneur Robin Li, CEO of Chinese Internet search giant Baidu.

Previous nominations of Chinese rights activists have included jailed family planning activist Chen Guangcheng and a Beijing-based activist under house arrest, Zeng Jinyan, in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Chinese media have never mentioned Chen or Zeng’s inclusion in the Top 100 list, and censors have blocked the Web page showing the finalist status of Charter 08 drafters until today.

Independent Chinese PEN member Pan Jiawei said that in the past Chinese authorities have mobilized cyber-police or pro-government volunteers to vote for their favorite candidate.

“I hope all of us can work together this time to make different voices heard, and influence the final result of the Time 100 vote,” Pan said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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