(October 8, 2010) In a move that has infuriated Chinese officials, the Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the jailed dissident writer and famous democracy advocate, Liu Xiaobo.
Chinese officials, quick in their response to the decision, have reportedly restricted online discussion and Western television reports about the award. The country’s Foreign Ministry has also condemned Norway, where the Nobel Committee is based, saying it could hinder relations between the two countries.
The Nobel committee is defending its decision—which came in the face of strong warnings from the Chinese government—to give the award to Mr. Liu, highlighting his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”
The 54-year-old Mr. Liu is the first Chinese dissident to receive the prize.
He is currently serving an 11-year sentence for his campaigning of political freedoms and co-authoring the “Charter 08” petition that called for rule of law, free speech and, ironically, an end to the law under which he was found guilty—“inciting subversion of state power.”
Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, told the Wall Street Journal: “He would be very surprised as he never imagined receiving such a prize. He just felt he had a responsibility to fight for the rights of the people who have no voice.”
The decision has drawn praise from a number of high officials, including: President Barack Obama (last year’s winner), Mr. Havel, the European Commission, the governments of France, Germany and Poland, Navi Pillay and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others.
The Chinese government, according to the Wall Street Journal, has in recent months been pressuring the committee not to give the award to Mr. Lui. Geir Lundestad, the head of the Nobel Institute, said last month that China’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Fu Ying, had warned him in June that giving the award to the Chinese dissident would affect relations between Norway and China.
Ms. Fu denies that she exerted “diplomatic pressure.”
But after Friday’s decision, China’s Foreign Ministry was quick with a condemnation.
“Liu Xiaobo is a criminal,” a press release said. “The awarding of the peace prize by the committee to this person completely contradicts its aims and is a desecration of the peace prize.”
A number of Chinese people appear to be celebrating the decision. The Wall Street Journal says that, even with the media blackout, “there was jubilation among some intellectuals and advocates of greater freedom.” But the paper also warned that the decision may anger some nationalists.
The award to Mr. Liu comes as China has in the past year struggled both with its human rights record and its strong repression of free speech. Last year, the Chinese government pressured officials at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was honouring China, to prevent two of China’s most famous dissident writers, Dai Qing and Ma Jian, from speaking at the event. The controversy became one of the speaking points of the book fair—the most famous of its kind—and attracted media attention from around the globe.
Many critics said China should have never been invited as a guest of honour at a Book Fair, as it continues to shackle dissident writers and prevent the publication of their books.
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