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By Shepard Fairey, Los Angeles CA
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Click to go to a Printer Friendly version of this article Art: Freedom of Speech By Shepard Fairey, Los Angeles CA

22 years ago (June 4, 1989) a peaceful 100,000-strong student-led protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square caught the world’s attention when the Chinese government cracked down with tanks and troops. Hundreds died, up to 10,000 were injured, and widespread arrests, trials, and executions of pro-democracy leaders followed.

Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 8, is still best known for playing an important role in the protests and he is largely credited with saving the lives of hundreds if not thousands of student protesters by negotiating with Chinese soldiers to let them leave. He is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China. He is the fourth person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison or detention.

Liu was sentenced to two years in prison for his efforts at Tiananmen. From then until 1999 he was in and out of labor camps, prisons, detention centers and house arrest. In 2008, he initiated the “Charter 08” manifesto calling for China to comply with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Consequently, he was again arrested and sentenced to a harsh 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” — even though China is a signatory of the U.N. declaration.

Liao Yiwu, one of his oldest friends, said: “Because of him, Chinese history does not come to a stop. After 1989, many people chose to forget what had happened, chose to go abroad, chose to divert themselves into doing business, or even to work with the government – but he did not.”

Liu’s name is barely known in China due to continued censorship. And since his win, pressure on fellow activists has intensified, not relaxed.

Shepard Fairey is a contemporary artist, graphic designer, and illustrator. He first became known for his "André the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic super market tabloid Weekly World News. His work became more widely known in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, specifically his Barack Obama "HOPE" poster. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists. His work is included in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Click here to contact Mr. Fairey.
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June 9, 2011 - Issue 430
The next issue will be published Jan 5, 2011
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