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October 08, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize Awarded To Chinese Dissident

The Nobel Peace Prize has a hit and miss record over the years to say the least. Last year it reached ridiculous proportions when the award went to Barack Obama. Perhaps this year's award to an advocate for Chinese democracy (insert Guns N' Roses joke here, or not) will be a sign of better things to come.

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese democracy activist, in a move that infuriated China's government and could heighten tensions with the West by re-focusing international attention on Beijing's human rights record.

China responded by saying the decision violated the Nobel principles and could damage relations with Norway, where the Nobel Committee is based—even though the five-member body is independent of the government there.

The Nobel Committee said it decided to give the prize to Mr. Liu, who in December was sentenced to 11 years in prison, for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."

"Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal," it said. "China's new status must entail increased responsibility."

From the man who nominated Liu for the prize.

Liu’s writings express the aspirations of a growing number of China’s citizens; the ideas he has articulated in his allegedly subversive writings, ideas that are commonplace in free societies around the world, are shared by a significant cross section of Chinese society. Charter 08, for example, is a testament to an expanding movement for peaceful political reform in China. This document, which Liu co-authored, is a remarkable attempt both to engage China's leadership and to speak to the Chinese public about where China is and needs to go. It is novel in its breadth and in its list of signers—not only dissidents and human rights lawyers, but also prominent political scientists, economists, writers, artists, grassroots activists, farmers, and even government officials. More than 10,000 Chinese citizens have endorsed the document despite the fact that almost all of the original 300 signers have since been detained or harassed. In doing so they, too, exhibited exceptional courage and conviction. One of them, for example, a teacher in Yunnan province, reported that police contacted her three times asking her to renounce the Charter and proclaim the signer was some other person with the same name. She refused. To stand up for Liu Xiaobo is to stand with a growing number of men and women like her in China; to stand with all those who advocate for peaceful change in the world’s most populous nation.

In fact, Liu Xiaobo is the kind of figure governments suppress at their peril. While he was a young university professor, Liu was a major protagonist in the final days of the Tiananmen Square protests, and, as I have already said, he is widely credited with preventing far greater bloodshed when government troops moved into the square. Liu admonished the students to make their own movement more democratic; he disarmed a group of workers who appeared with guns to protect the student demonstrators (there is stirring news footage of him seizing a rifle and smashing it at a Tiananmen rally shortly before the crackdown); and he helped persuade students to evacuate the square in the final hours. Deeply committed to non-violence and democracy, Liu has been able both to articulate and to channel the frustrations of the Chinese people for more than two decades. Stifling such a voice does nothing to address those frustrations, which one way or another will eventually find expression. China has, indeed, moved increasingly towards democracy and freedom in the last few decades.

Liu isn't a sexy and exciting pick like Obama was thought to be in 2009 but there is the advantage that he has actually done something of note, namely put his life on the line in the name of freedom.

Liu won't get 1/10 of the worldwide attention Obama did but then again, he won't be partying it up in Oslo with the world's professional 'peace' industry. Barring some surprising change in position by the Chinese government, Liu will be rotting away in a gulag.

Not all Nobel Peace Laureates are created equal.


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posted by DrewM. at 09:42 AM

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