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  

Papua New Guinea – timing of independence

Thank you Tavurur  for your comment on my earlier post on the timing of PNG self-government and independence. Here is a little more detail on the issue.

Whitlam, the Labor leader, visited Papua New Guinea in early 1971. On the 3rd of January, he delivered a speech in Port Moresby (entitled Labor’s Plan for New Guinea: Statement by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party) in which he made clear his position that the movement to self-government had been too slow and that he favoured early independence. He foreshadowed the possibility of a unilateral action by Australia. His ground was that colonialism was morally untenable and that Australia could not be forced against its will to remain a colonial power. It was an extreme reaction to the Hasluckian approach of deferring self-government and independence until PNG was ‘ready’.

His threat along these lines was rendered redundant  because:


Published in: on June 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Orwell — Animal Farm

Animal Farm.

I recently re-read this. In the course of doing so, I found TS Eliot’s famous rejection when he was a director of the publisher Faber and Faber in 1943.

When Orwell submitted his allegory on Stalin’s dictatorship, Elliot praised its ‘good writing’ and ‘fundamental integrity’ but felt it was not the right time to criticise the political situation. Britain was allied with the Soviet Union against Hitler. He also added that “your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn’t have been an Animal Farm without them:so that what was needed (some might argue)was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.” The pertinence of this comment is not self-evident.

However, ‘Animal Farm’ was published the following year by Secker & Warburg.Orwell had written a preface which, for some reason, was not included.It was discovered and is now included in the current Penguin edition. In it he refers to one publisher submitting to Animal Farm to the Ministry of Information which, in response, added the comment: “ Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs. I think the choice of pigs will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.”In the preface Orwell comments, “At this moment what is demanded by prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia. Everyone knows this, nearly everyone acts on it. Any serious criticism of the Soviet regime, any disclosure of facts which the Soviet government would prefer to keep hidden, is next to unprintable. And this nation-wide conspiracy to flatter our ally takes place, curiously enough, against a background of genuine intellectual tolerance. For though you are not allowed to criticise the Soviet Government, at least you are reasonably free to criticise your own. Hardly anyone ill print an attack on Stalin, but it is quite safe to attack Churchill, at any rate in books and periodicals.”

Published in: Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Papua New Guinea — timing of independence

It is sometimes said that Australia granted independence too soon and should have deferred it until Papua New Guinea was ready.

This is quite wrong — and is so at various levels. First, it assumes that independence could be delayed until all the various strands necessary for Papua New Guinea to be ‘ready’ — political, economic, administrative and social  could be set and determined by Australia. What this overlooks is that the ‘political’ strand in the evolution of the colonial state necessarily has a life of its own. Being ‘ready’ means there are political leaders sufficiently experienced by involvement in government to be able to assume leadership. But that very process naturally leads those indigenous leaders to make increasing demands for further involvement in the leadership of the country and hence for it to be granted self-government and independence.


Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Comments (3)  
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The problems of decolonisation — pre-state societies

I think the observations of Pruniere which I referred to in an earlier post apply equally to all pre-state societies, including Papua New Guinea. That is, the central difficulty is that decolonisation is predicated upon the right to self-determination which implied freedom of the nation state from colonial domination. But there was no nation-state and, aside from the elites, the people of those societies had no conception of a nation state; that is, of the nation having the exclusive claim to loyalty and of the state having the exclusive claim to authority.


Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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The problems of decolonisation–Africa

“In 1885, at the heyday of European imperialism, Africa was a continent apart. It had no nation-states, no caliphate, and no empire. It did not even have the crude military dictatorships that at that time passed for states in Latin America. It was a continent of clans, of segmentary tribes and of a few sacred  monarchies. Societies were what mattered, and the state was a construct many could live without. Boundaries did exist, but not in the European sense. They were linguistic, cultural, military or commercial and they tended to crisscross and overlap, without the neat delineations so much beloved by western statesmen since the treaties of Westphalia. Colonial European logic played havoc with that delicate cobweb of relationships. New borders were drawn not so much in violation of preexisting ones but according to a different logic. African borders had been porous membranes through which proto-nations were breathing, and the colonial borders that superseded them were of the pre-1914 cast-iron variety…”

Gerard Prunier, Africa’s World War, p.1

Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm  Comments (4)  
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GFC crisis : Finance terminology


The following notes on Finance terminology arise out of discussion with Harry Greenwell and reference to Google:

Sub-Prime mortgage:

A sub-prime mortgage differs from a standard mortgage in that it is specifically designed for borrowers who have an adverse  or bad credit rating. Hence it is sub prime. A feature of sub-prime mortgages was that ordinarily they included a provision for adjustable interest rates. It is evident that if the borrowers are riskier the value of the security becomes correspondingly more important.


Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Google withdraws from China

On the 22nd March, Google announced that it had stopped filtering results on based in China. The withdrawal followed two months of tense negotiations following Google’s reaction to coordinated cyber attacks on the gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents. In its negotiations, Google had sought to persuade Chinese authorities to allow it to operate an unfiltered search engine. But Chinese officials had made it “crystal clear … that self-censorship is non-negotiable”. Since its withdrawal Google has re-directed mainland users to its search engine based in Hong Kong. But so far it seems this attempt to avoid Chinese cenorship has been unsuccessful.

Google is to be congratulated.What it has done gives rise to a general issue of corporate responsibility to observe international human rights where to do so might jeopardise shareholder profitablity. Traditionally, subject to its founding documents, the function of a corporation was to make a profit and the directors were not authorised  to direct its business activities to anything else. As a 19th century Judge once put it “a company has neither a soul to be damned, nor a body to be kicked.”  More recently,  ‘corporate social responsiblity’ has become topical. This, however, has been mostly in reference to environmental considerations and perhaps labour standards rather than observing international human rights obligations not reflected in local law.

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Amnesty International — Saghal

It is evident both from the Hitchens article and other material that there was more to the Amnesty/Saghal affair than her reaction to a single occasion at which Begg was present and to which she objected.

One issue, which I regard as separate from the charge made by her against Amnesty, is that of the suspension itself. Rushdie and others all join in condemning Amnesty for ‘suspending’ her. Regardless of the fact that the ‘suspension’ is denied by Amnesty, I cannot regard it as in itself an unjustified step for an employer to take or that it is in some way inconsistent with the organization’s belief in freedom of expression. She went public with complaints against the organization which was employing her. I do not believe any organization should be expected to accept the continued employment of the employee in those circumstances. She could of course leave and proceed to make public her criticisms of the organization.


Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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China — Human Rights — Western criticism

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, 29th Jan 2010, Ian Buruma makes some observations about Chinese attitudes to human rights which are not in themselves themselves original but are pungently put and present the dilemma. Criticism of China’s appalling human rights record collides with Chinese nationalism and thus  only exacerbates an antagonism to human rights, which, as a concept, does not belong to the Chinese  tradition.

Thought control, in terms of imposing an official orthodoxy, is a very old tradition. The official glue that has long been applied to hold Chinese authority together is a kind of state dogma, loosely known as Confucianism, which is moral as well as political, stessing obedience to authority. … instilling the belief that obedience to authority is not just a way to keep order, but an essential part of being Chinese….the most common ideology since the 1990’s is a defensive nationalism, disseminated through museums, entertainment and school textbooks.

All Chinese school children are indoctrinated with the idea that China was humiliated for centuries and that support of the Chinese state is the only way for China to regain its greatness and never be humiliated again. That is why foreign criticism of Chinese politics, or Chinese infringements of human rights, is denounced by government officials as an attack on Chinese culture, as an attempt to ‘denigrate China’. And Chinese who agree with these foreign criticisms are treated not as dissidents but as traitors.

Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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