“Many young people don’t know him. Many others pretend they’ve already forgotten him.” As news spread this week of the death of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, even oblique posts like this one, making only the haziest of references to the writer, were expunged from Chinese social networks. “The man has passed, but the ideals are not destroyed,” saidanother post, made to Weibo at around 1:00 a.m. on July 14 and deleted two hours later. Even the sparse sentiment, “Rest in peace” was too much for China’s trigger-happy censors. But the obsessive and cruel efforts of Chinese authorities to erase Liu Xiaobo and everything he stands for only underscore the power of his ideas — and every act of obliteration speaks to the bankruptcy of the Party’s own “mainstream” values. The lone “mainstream” Chinese voice to speak on Liu Xiaobo’s passing was that of the belligerent Global Times newspaper, which again could only speak of effacement and negation. “One can create some waves against the current,” the paper said, “but history will eventually wash away these traces.” The fact is, of course, that the changes Liu Xiaobo and other drafters of Charter 08 advocated never moved against “the current” of Chinese society and politics. As one of the Charter’s signers, Bao Tong, noted in his July 14 tribute to Liu, the document accorded with China’s Constitution in its calls for freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly and association: “We called only for its faithful implementation — there was nothing else. Under normal circumstances, all of it might be accepted by the authorities, and there was no reason to object.” In the face of attempts to vanish him, Liu Xiaobo is an indelible reminder of China’s broken promises — the empty chair that in due time history will fill, whatever China’s leaders do or do not say.