Like many Chinese young people, Liu Jianshu 柳建树 studied abroad and chose to come back to China. Unlike most young Chinese graduates from abroad, he did not choose a place to make a lot of money with his background of overseas study in Oxford; instead, he made himself an NGO worker and dedicated to the development of civil society in China.
Graduated from the Chinese University of Politics and Law, Liu also hold a Master of Law from Oxford University. In 2011, he returned to China after Oxford and continued to work in Liren Rural Library, a non-governmental organization that had run a rural library project with as many as 22 libraries across China before its closing down due to “tremendous pressure” from the local authorities in September 2014. Liu is the Vice Executive of Liren until he left Liren later in August 2012. He also established a website Xizhao Legal Forum 犀照法律援助与研究平台, providing legal assistance and research service to the public. In 2014, he is one of the main campaigners that launched the petition to abolish China’s Custody and Education system. an extrajudicial system that is easily abused by local governments.
In a 2012 news report (in Chinese) about Liren, the author also writes about Liu Jianshu:
Time passed so fast talking with Liu Jianshu. During our short conversation, I feel that this young man has strong social responsibility and unlimited capacity, as well as concerns about the current political system. There is no security working for public interest, and it seems a common phenomenon that it can not satisfy one’s parents and family’s expectations. The continuity of this kind of life is a test, it faces many pragmatic issues coming from the family and living, although they will not affect the general direction of the work too much.
Li Yingqiang 李英强 (the Director of Liren) always says, “Do things according to the limit of your power”. “It is easy to be pessimistic when working for public interest, there is big obstacle. Never give oneself too much pressure, otherwise one will get crazy. Li Yingqiang has done this for five years, his work shall be able to continue, I presume. My father opposes, different values, we just can’t persuade each other.” For this, Liu Jianshu looked helpless.
When I asked him about future expectations, he said that he hoped that the government would open this field (civil society) soon, just like it treated private enterprises, simple registration and not too much limitation, to provide the social welfare and safeguard system to a certain level. This probably needs a third sector to be a transitional lubricant. Intellectuals still have emotions towards the country, if there is enough open space, there is a lot to do. The time to live a real happy life, is probably still far away.”
In November 2014, Liu Jianshu was detained by the police in Beijing together with many other NGO workers and intellectuals around the same period. Zeng Jianyan wrote in her blog that:
Please do not ask again why they arrest Xu Xiao, just like please do not ask why Guo Yushan, Huang Kaiping, He Zhenjun, Ling Lisha, Kou Yanding, Chen Kun, Xue Ye, Liu Jianshu, Liu Bin, Zhang Qibin, Xia Lin, Pu Zhiqing were arrested, it is because they have professional capacity, willingness to bear honest poverty, and have made ultimate effort for social change in their positions.
A netizen commented on the arrest of Liu Jianshu on weibo, “I am shocked to know that Liu was arrested. He graduated from the Chinese University of Politics and law, used to work in many NGOs, such as Transition Institute, Liren, XiZhao etc. Not long ago, he was visiting University of Toronto, and I met him in my office. We also went to a union gathering once. For me, he is one of the rare and brilliant Chinese young people, and the backbone and future of China. If people like him are treated so ruthlessly, no rationality under heaven!
On Sinaweibo, Zhao Sile (weibo id 赵思乐feminist), wife of Liu Jianshu writes:
(30 Nov 2014)
Liu Jianshu is 28 years old, I am 24, as the sufferer and his companion, we are all too young, feel a lot unbearable pain and responsibility. However it does not depend on ourselves to rebel or not rebel, to be in danger or out of it, to suffer or not to suffer. What we can choose is if we want to live in truth. What is left, what we will encounter, is “their” choice.
(9 Dec 2014)
(Updates about Liu Jianshu’s situation: lawyer visit is permitted!) The lawyer just called and agreed him to visit Xiaoshu (little tree, nick name of Liu)! Friends who sent postcards to Xiaoshu, please leave your postcards signature (not necessarily real name), I will prepare a list and ask the lawyer to help passing it to Xiaoshu. No matter if he receives the postcards or not, I want him to know your support. If you also entrust me to use your postcard photo, please send it to email@example.com. Thanks for your support!
If you would like to write the address in Chinese:
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