Xu Wenli came to Brown’s Watson Institute in the spring of 2003. His story before he arrived at Brown is both harrowing and inspiring. One of China’s most recognized pro-democracy advocates, Mr. Xu spent 16 years in prison in China for his activities as a dissident. He was a leader in the Democracy Wall movement from 1979 to 1981, edited the samizdat-style journal April Fifth Forum, and played a major role in establishing the Beijing-Tianjin branch of the China Democracy Party. Mr. Xu’s health suffered while in prison. In reaction to his declining condition, international human rights groups, the U.S. ambassador to China, and Western officials called for his release. The Chinese government relented and released him on medical grounds in December 2002.
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo has focused attention once again on China’s human rights record.
But how long is our attention span? Will the prize make a difference on the ground in China? What are the prospects for the advancement of human rights in China?