(November 7, 2010) Wall Street Journal report on Dai Qing’s pledge to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony for Liu Xiaobo.
BEIJING—One of China’s most prominent environmental activists has pledged to attend an award ceremony for Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize last month, despite Beijing’s intensifying efforts to keep his supporters—and Western ambassadors—away from the event.
Dai Qing, a 69-year-old former journalist who lives in Beijing but is visiting Canada, published a statement online saying she would attend the ceremony in Oslo next month if China did not release Mr. Liu or allow his wife or one of his friends to go on his behalf.
Mr Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, has been under effective house arrest since he won the award, and she issued an open letter last month inviting 143 of her husband’s friends to receive the prize on his behalf. Almost all of them have since either been detained or placed under house arrest or tight surveillance.
“If the authorities ignore all these calls and no one on Liu Xia’s list is permitted to go abroad through the proper procedures, it happens that I am in Canada now for an academic conference,” Ms Dai, who was among the 143 people invited, wrote on the website of Probe International, a Canada-based environmental group of which she is a fellow.
“To comfort Xiaobo in prison and Liu Xia under house arrest, and for all who are on Liu Xia’s list…then I shall tell the world that it is not true that no Chinese citizen who fights against authoritarianism will be able to attend the grand ceremony in Oslo. If necessary, I will go there to fulfill my duty to my friend.”
She compared China’s handling of the situation to that of Nazi Germany after the Prize went to German journalist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935, and of Myanmar after the award went to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar opposition leader, in 1991.
Mr. Liu, a human-rights activist, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion.
Ms Dai’s presence in Oslo would likely infuriate Chinese authorities. When she was invited to give a speech at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, China—one of the main sponsors—protested so vociferously that organizers tried to rescind her official invitation, prompting a public outcry in Germany.
Her letter was issued late Friday, after China issued an ultimatum to foreign governments planning to attend the ceremony, telling them they faced a simple choice between challenging China’s judicial system and developing friendly relations.
Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told a news briefing Friday that European and other governments which continued to show support for Mr. Liu would have to “bear the consequences”—raising the diplomatic stakes over an issue that appears to have angered and united China’s Communist Party leaders.
Chinese authorities also Sunday continued to hold Ai Weiwei, one of the country’s most famous artists and activists, under house arrest. Authorities put him under house arrest Friday in the latest sign of a broad crackdown on political dissent since Mr. Liu won the prize.
In an interview Sunday, Mr. Ai said senior city and district police officers had come to his home and informed him that he would not be allowed to leave until midnight Sunday. “After that, if they don’t extend it, I’ll be a free man,” he said.
Mr. Cui’s warning came after several European diplomats revealed that China had made verbal and written requests for their governments not to attend the Nobel awards ceremony in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, in December, although most said they still planned to go.
The warning, combined with a series of state media diatribes against Mr. Liu over the last fortnight, suggest that Party leaders now regard him as a serious threat and are growing increasingly intolerant of support for him both at home and overseas.
It also suggests that they may be willing to use—or at least to threaten to use—China’s rapidly expanding economic power to put pressure on European and other Western governments anxious to promote commercial ties with Beijing to boost their flagging economies.
That has troubling implications for foreign governments seeking business deals with Beijing.
David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, begins his first official visit to China Tuesday to try to promote British business, although diplomats say he is expected to raise concerns about Mr. Liu.
Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that it had received a request from China to boycott the Nobel awards ceremony, but said it planned to send its ambassador in Oslo as usual.
“The choice before some European countries and others is clear and simple,” Mr. Cui said. “Do they want to be part of the political game to challenge China’s judicial system or do they want to develop a truly friendly relationship with the Chinese government and people in a responsible manner?” he added.”
“They have to make the choice according to their own judgment,” he said. “If they make the wrong choice, they have to bear the consequences.”
Mr Liu, a former literature professor who took part in the pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square in 1989, was convicted in December after organizing a political manifesto called Charter 08, which called for media freedom and multiparty elections.
Several Western governments, including the U.S., have congratulated him on his award and repeatedly called for Chinese authorities to release him from prison and lift restrictions on his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under virtual house arrest since he won the Prize.
China has denounced the award as an “obscenity” and part of a Western conspiracy to undermine a rising China. It has also portrayed Mr. Liu as a criminal who hated his own country, and detained or placed under house arrest dozens of his supporters and other political activists.
Mr. Ai, a prominent political activist and famous artist, recently produced a video interview with the family of a girl who was allegedly run over and killed by the son of a senior police officer in northern China.
Mr. Ai told The Wall Street Journal he had been placed under house arrest to prevent him from attending a party on Sunday to mark the demolition of his studio in Shanghai by local authorities, which he says is punishment for his political activism. He said Sunday that about 500 people had attended the party.
The Associated Press reported that a few hundred people went to the party. It said plainclothes police observed the proceedings but did not intervene.
Jeremy Page, Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2010
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