Liu Xiaobo — Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiabo today (8th October 2010). The award was for ” his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

The Committee referred to some of the matters mentioned on earlier posts on this blog.

In 1989, Liu joined a hunger strike in support of students in Tiananmen Square and persuaded many to leave the Square as troops were poised to enter. He is at present serving a sentence of 11 years imprisonment for being the principal author of Charter 08 which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

There has been global support for the Prize. World leaders from US President Barack Obama to the Dalai Lama have called for his release. But China has reacted angrily.

“Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. Awarding the Prize to Liu runs contrary to the principles of the Nobel Peace prize”, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

To this Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Stor replied, “We  congratulate the award winner. The committee emphasises the link between the development of democracy and human rights…”

The favourable responses to the award continue. President Obama welcomed the award:

“I welcome the Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Liu Xiaobo. The list of Nobel Awards… now includes Mr Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs. By granting the prize to Mr Liu, the Nobel Committee has chosen someone who has been an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of human values through peaceful and non-violent means, including his support for democracy, human rights and the rule of law….”.

Praise also came from Jose Barroso, President of the European Commission; Bernard Kouchner, French Minister or Foreign Affairs; Britain’s Foreign Ministry; Martin Bosacki, Spokesman for Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who, in the course of his announcement of welcome, said

“The European Member States, including Poland, have repeatedly spoken with the Chinese authorities about Liu Xiaobo, expressing concern over his arrest for the right available to every citizen of the People’s Republic of China — one for free and peaceful expression of opinion. The European Union frequently demanded access to the files on Liu Xiaobo’s trial ….”.

Meanwhile, the frenzied reaction in China has become increasingly Orwellian, as described by John Garnaut;

“… I phoned Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia. [She stated] ” it is not convenient to accept an interview now, there are lots of police at my home.”

She has not been seen or heard of since. Garnaut continues

“… I phoned Cui Weiping, a passionate and dignified film critic who had been involved in the same ‘Charter 08’ manifesto for political reform that had landed Liu Xiaob in jail. “There is light”, she said,  “before breaking into tears as the Nobel Committee’s statement was being read out” and thereafter censored. I pedalled back as fast as I could through the blanket smog to the Herald Office … I tried to watch CNN, which had been blacked out, as had the BBC… China Central Television and Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV … were broadcasting as if nothing had happened. The Chinese-language internet was already flooded with jubilant commentary before being quickly ‘harmonised’…”Behind the Great Firewall of China, it is now almost impossible to find direct public reference to words like ‘Liu Xiaobo’ or ‘Nobel’ .. I wondered what the Premier, Wen Jiaobao would make of it all after his comment on CNN last week that ‘freedom of speech is indispensable’ was itself deleted from the Chinese internet”.

The immediate ‘blackout’ within China was broken only for a time  by government denunciations and security control over any person favourable or likely to be favourable to Liu Xiaobo, there have since been courageous interventions. On 11 October, 23 elder statesmen of the Communist Party submitted an open letter o the Standing Committee of the National Peple’s Congress, China’s highest state body, caling for freedom of sppech and freedom of the press in line with Article 35 of China’s constitution … the letter said that “this false democracy of formal avowal and concrete denial has become a scandalous mark on the history of world democracy”.The open letter went on to point out that censorship has become so pervasive that it ffects Premier Wen Jiabao, whose recent sppeches about political reform have all been edited out of official news releases[ for the Premier’s comments see separate Post].

“Right now the Central Propaganda Department is placed above the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and above the State Council. We would ask, what right does the Central Propaganda Department to muzzle the speech of our Premier? What right does it have to rob the people of our nation of their right to know what the Premier has said?

Whilst this letter appeared just a few days after Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Prize it appears it was triggered by the detention of journalist Xie Chaoping who had been recently detained for a month over his book which investigated the forced relocation of many people in Shaanxi province during the damming of the Yellow river in the 1950’s. The letter emads that is case be investigated. One particular demand was made: that “internet regulatory bodies must not arbitrarily delete online posts and online comment”.

Subsequently, moe than 100 Chinese writers, lawyers and activists released a letter urging the government to release Liu Xiaobo and other political risoners. The letter called for the government to approach the award with ‘realism and reason’. The letter described Liu as ” a splendid choice”, adding: “We call upon the authorities to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who are in detention for readons such as their speech, their political views or their political beliefs.” The letter called China “to embrace universal values and ay they are ready to engage actively in the promotion of political reform after the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, raised the issue”. Police have harassed some of the signatories which include the lawyers Teng Biao and Pu Zhqiang, the academic Cui Weiping, the Tibetan poet Woeser and the journalist Li Datong.

Published in: Uncategorized on October 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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