April 13, 2008

Dissident Chinese Physicist to Receive the 2008 Andrei Sakharov Prize at the American Physical Society’s April Meeting in St. Louis

APS Honors Chinese Scientist and Human Rights Activist

Press conference: 1:00 PM, Sunday, April 13, Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront Hotel, Director’s Row 24

COLLEGE PARK, MD – The 2008 Andrei Sakharov Prize and an accompanying $10,000 will be awarded to Liangying Xu at the American Physical Society (APS) annual meeting in St. Louis. The award recognizes Xu for

A lifetime’s advocacy of truth, democracy and human rights -- despite surveillance and house arrest, harassment and threats, even banishment -- through his writings, and publicly speaking his mind.

Xu has been an outspoken scientist and activist in China for most of his professional life. Through a span of repressive governments, he has defended academic and scientific freedom, and basic human rights.

Xu’s son, Chenggang Xu, will accept the prize on behalf of the award winner on Sunday April 13, at 5:30 p.m.. This year's Andrei Sakharov Award lecture is titled "Xu Liangying – A lifetime's advocacy of truth, democracy and human rights". The lecture was prepared by the award winner and will be delivered in a power-point presentation in English by Danian Hu, author of the book "China and Albert Einstein" on Monday, April 14 at 2:06 p.m., in session S6.00002.

Chenggang Xu will take part in a press conference to discuss his father’s work at 1:00 PM, Sunday, April 13 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront Hotel. He will be joined by Zuoyue Wang, a science historian and a former graduate student of Liangying Xu, who will talk about Einstein's influence on Prof. Xu's human rights activities.

Liangying Xu’s humanitarian efforts began when he joined the early communist revolution, during a time when an overwhelming percentage of Chinese citizens lived in stark poverty.  He then openly criticized Mao Zedong’s regime, as it grew increasingly repressive of academic freedom and alternative political ideas.  His political stance put damaging pressure on his family and his professional life, and pushed Xu into exile.

In 1962, during his exile, Xu took on the task of translating some of Einstein’s philosophical and scientific works into Chinese.  But the Chinese and Soviet governments believed Einstein’s scientific and philosophical works were anti-Marxist.   Xu chose to defend Einstein, his life-long icon, rather than the Marxist idealism he once supported.  When the Cultural Revolution came in 1969, the Red Guards confiscated Dr. Xu’s translations.  Xu fought to regain the papers, which were eventually returned, and published in the late 1970’s.

Xu eventually returned to China, and in 1989 he and his friends drafted an open letter titled, "Without Democracy There Will Be No Reform" for the Chinese magazine Future and Development.  The letter helped inspire the students who crowded Tiananmen Square in 1989; leading to the tragic massacre that attracted world wide attention.  The government put Xu under house arrest for the letter for periods from 1989 until the early 2000s, sparing him from prison because of his ill health.   

Xu has since published three other letters calling for human rights in China; all resulting in his house arrest.  His book My Views: Xu Liangying’s Collection of Essays on Science, Democracy and Reason was published in 2001.   His story has been told in the books Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China, by H. Lyman Miller and China and Albert Einstein by Danian Hu.  Aside from promoting Einstein and human rights activities, Xu is writing a book on the history and theory of democracy with his wife, Wang Laidi, who is an expert on Chinese modern history.

About APS

The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, D.C.