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If the US won't stand up to China, who will?

Beijing's harsh sentencing of democratic reformer Liu Xiaobo underscores China's contempt for the West and human rights – and the need for President Obama to confront this authoritarian arrogance.

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On December 25, a moderate reformist in China, Liu Xiaobo, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by the Chinese government for the mere act of organizing and signing a petition, Charter 08, calling for political reform and the basic human rights much of the world already enjoys.

The message was clear for all those who sought restraint from a newly powerful China that now sits prominently at the tables of global governance: Since you made a fuss about releasing Liu after his arrest, we will punish him even more severely. In no uncertain terms, that will let you know that not only don’t we care what you think, but we don’t have to.

Though diplomats from Germany and Australia were among the two dozen people allowed to observe the “public trial,” the fact that no one from the American embassy was admitted should be read as a particularly clear and open challenge to the US

We Chinese are intimately acquainted with this authoritarian arrogance.

During the eras of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, when I was jailed for 15 years for the “heinous crime” of putting up a wall poster, the Chinese government regarded international public opinion with this same attitude. If the Chinese people saw how the government blithely dismissed the concerns of powerful foreigners, the Communist Party rulers reasoned, they would also see they had no alternative but to submit to the overbearing authority of the government.

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