Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo died in a Chinese prison July 13. It feels like a light has gone out, and I can’t stop thinking about this bespectacled Chinese intellectual who stood up to the Chinese government and demanded basic human rights in China.

Reading about his death brought me back to the late 1980s, when I was volunteering at Human Rights in China, an organization that sprang up during the 1989 student demonstrations. Liu Xiaobo had just left his guest scholar position at Columbia University to race back to Beijing to support the students in Tiananmen Square.

I remember feeling inspired by his bravery and sense of justice. He was willing to put his life on the line for what he believed in. The tanks that rolled into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, not only killed hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people but also rolled over their hopes that spring of a more open and more humane country. Now, despite all the economic reforms, shiny new buildings and access to the internet, China is in many ways more closed in its views of dissent than it was 28 years ago.

In thinking about Liu Xiaobo, I am struck by his courage. The Chinese government tried to silence Mr. Liu in prison – they wanted to make him invisible to the world. Instead, he received the Nobel Peace Prize and became a symbol of courage around the world.

He, like the other peace prize recipients, held on to convictions that peaceful change can happen. We need more courage today. What does it take to actually stand up for the things we believe in? We need to remember Liu Xiaobo by leading courageous lives and by lending our voices to struggles on behalf of those whose voices are silenced.

Suzanne Fox

Portland