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CHINA:Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel choice that would reflect well on Oslo

Posted by on 2010/10/07. Filed under International. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Oct 7, 2010 – 12:40:01 AM

As it does every year at the start of October, the Nobel Committee is looking at that world and trying to decide where its prestigious Peace Prize might have the most impact. And as they do every year, circles specialised in particular causes try to draw them to this distinguished committee’s attention. This year, China’s pro-democracy activists and their supporters outside China are proposing the candidacy of Liu Xiaobo, a Beijing intellectual who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day 2009 for being one of the leading authors of the Charter 08 manifesto.
In this charter – inspired by Charter 77, which marked the beginning of open opposition to Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe in the late 1970s – Liu Xiaobo called for the extension of China’s economic reforms to political reforms, the end of the Communist Party’s political monopoly, and an opening-up to pluralism, free speech and the freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice. Seen from where we are, these demands seem fairly ordinary and reasonable. Seen from Beijing, they merited an exceptionally severe jail sentence, the third that Liu has received.
Liu was held for 20 months without trial after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. He was sentenced to three years in prison in 1996 for joining activist Wang Xizhe in signing a petition calling for a new alliance between the Communist Party and the Guomindang. Liu resumed his dissident activities as soon as he was released in 1999, condemning human rights violations and putting forward moderate proposals for a gradual evolution in the government’s policies.
There would be nothing shocking about awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a man who wrote in 1989: “We do not have enemies. Let us not allow hatred and violence to poison our wisdom and China’s democratisation.” Liu always opted for a peaceful road and his patient way of explaining issues to his compatriots has without doubt contributed to a vast citizen movement that nowadays, as in the past, continues to evolve around two core principles – respect for the law and the rejection of violence.
Liu is obviously not China’s only pro-democracy activist and not the only one to have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Wei Jingsheng, the author of the 1978 essay “The Fifth Modernisation – Democracy,” was nominated in 1996, when he was still in prison. Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the 1989 student pro-democracy movement, is another former nominee. Hu Jia, the still imprisoned 2008 winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, was nominated last year. The renowned lawyer Gao Zhisheng, the victim of appalling forms of torture for years just for trying to defend practitioners of the Falung Gong spiritual movement, is another former nominee. The list is long.
And yet the Nobel Peace Prize has never been awarded to a Chinese citizen. Its Asian laureates include Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, East Timor’s José Ramos Horta and Msgr Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho and of course the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India. Why this hesitation as regards the Chinese giant? Is it because China is now regarded as the engine of the world’s economic growth and must not be upset? But if this giant is in the process of becoming all-powerful, would this not be the time to remind it politely but very firmly that power combined with violence just spawns misfortune? And would it not be time to show all of China’s neighbours, who are increasingly nervous about the openly predatory behaviour of its leaders, that the West is conscious of the dangers posed by a possible war in the Far East?
The recent incident that almost sparked a war between Tokyo and Beijing, when a Chinese fishing vessel entered disputed territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyutai Islands by the Chinese), was just an example. The gradual shifting of the Laos-China border into Laos, skirmishes with India over parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin, China’s growing influence over Nepal and its support for the world’s two most brutal governments, those of Burma and North Korea, are all also issues that the Norwegians need to consider without delay and then take appropriate action.
Or was the furious comment by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on 28 September taken seriously? Referring to Liu, she said: “This person has been convicted of violating Chinese law. Awarding him the prize would sent the world the wrong message.” Is that the case? About 1 billion Chinese almost certainly do not think so.
Marie Holzman, president of Solidarité Chine, Paris

Hu Ping, editor of Beijing Spring, New York

Cai Chongguo, editor of China Labour Bulletin, Hong Kong

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