Geremie Barmé on Liu Xiaobo
I’ve been mourning Liu Xiaobo for a quarter of a century.
For five intense and eventful years in the late 1980s and early 1990s Xiaobo and I shared what I believe was a real friendship, something special to both of us. We weren’t pengyou 朋友 in that vacuous, Sino-American ‘everyone’s my friend’ kind of way; nor were we gemen’r 哥們兒, that smart ass Beijing version of buddy-buddiness. Much less, thank heavens, did we ever become lao pengyou 老朋友, an accursed expression that, in reality, indicates a long-term association reaffirmed by bonds of mutual benefit, imposing thereby an exploitative emotional burden on both parties. Nonetheless, we were, to use the Beijing argot, tie 鐵, iron-clad.