(November 11, 2010) Writing in Opinion Asia, Frank Ching says it’s time the Chinese government grow and husband its soft power and not waste time disputing the recent decision to the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Although it is now more than a month since the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese government is continuing to tighten surveillance of the imprisoned writer’s supporters in the country and to exert pressure on governments in Europe to distance themselves from the Nobel committee.
China reacted initially by terming the award an “obscenity” and demanded an apology. It accused Europeans generally of using the Nobel prize as part of a plot to contain China.
It has also accused the West of trying to force its values on China. Now, however, the focus is on the scheduled formal ceremony for the conferment of the award in Oslo on December 10, at a grand ceremony in the presence of the King and Queen of Norway.
It is unclear who will receive the award on Liu’s behalf. Needless to say, the intended recipient will be kept in prison and will not be allowed to travel to Norway.
It is also highly unlikely that his wife, Liu Xia, will be allowed to do that either. In fact, she was placed under house arrest as soon as his award was announced on October 8.
Liu’s wife has made public a list of about 140 names of his friends whom she has asked to receive the award on her husband’s behalf. Many of them, too, including dissidents, academics and lawyers, have been put under house arrest or are under very tight surveillance as part of the crackdown initiated by the government in the wake of the Nobel award. It is doubtful that they will not be allowed to leave the country.
However, there are one or two dissidents who are currently overseas, and who may therefore be able to fly to Oslo.
One is the writer Dai Qing, a leading dissident who is on Liu Xia’s list and who is currently in Canada on a speaking tour.
Dai, who was jailed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square military crackdown, issued a statement in which she compared the Chinese government’s reaction to Liu Xiaobo’s award to that of “the Nazi authorities and the Burmese military regime,” who were “also displeased when German journalist Carl von Ossietzky and Burmese social activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize.”
After calling on Beijing to allow Liu’s wife or friends to receive the prize in his stead, she declared that if no one in China is allowed to go to Oslo, then “I will go there to fulfill my duty to my friend.
And so, it seems, Liu’s peace prize will not lie uncollected gathering dust. But, of course, Dai Qing is right. There is no reason why Beijing should not allow Liu’s wife or one of his close friends to receive the award for him.
No doubt, China does not like being compared to the Nazis. But then, as Dai Qing rightly asked, “Will the Chinese authorities temporarily relax the controls on Xiaobo – as Hitler and Goring ultimately did in the von Ossietzky case by releasing him from a concentration camp? Or will the Chinese authorities close one eye, watching his relatives go to the ceremony—as the Burmese Junta did on Aung San’s case?”
But, it seems, the Chinese government will prove itself more unyielding than the Nazis or the Burmese military regime.
In addition to putting pressure on Liu’s family and friends, it is now also putting pressure on all governments, especially those in Europe, to boycott the December 10 ceremonies, as the Los Angeles Times has reported.
According to the newspaper, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has sent diplomatic notes to European ambassadors posted in Oslo regarding the Nobel Peace Prize saying, “We strongly hope that your country … will refrain from attending any activity directed against China.”
Since in the view of European countries the Nobel prize was in no way directed against China, there is no reason for them to skip the ceremonies.
But China itself will certainly not attend. The Chinese embassy has received an invitation sent by the Norwegian Nobel Committee but it returned the invitation in its original envelope unopened.
This is childish behavior. The world will judge how China will act as a superpower by its behavior today.
Telling the Europeans to skip the Nobel ceremony can only increase resentment against China.
This is a time for China to grow and husband its soft power, not to be petty and fritter it away on hopeless and unwise causes.
Frank Ching, Opinion Asia, November 11, 2010
Further Reading from Probe International:
- Dai Qing: The illusion of China’s rise
- Dai Qing: Liu Xia’s Grand List
- Translation of Liu Xia’s Letter
- Celebrating dissent: Chinese dissident wins Nobel Peace prize
- China Activist Pledges to Attend Nobel Ceremony
- In China, the Crackdown on Activists Continues
- Liu’s peace prize must not lie gathering dust
- Liu Xiaobo’s lawyer blocked from visiting Britain (Daily Telegraph)
- China bans Liu Xiaobo’s lawyer from flying to UK (Guardian)
- Lawyer linked to Nobel winner says barred from leaving China (AFP)
- Police stop rights lawyer from leaving China (deutsche press agency)
- Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo’s lawyer ‘to sue China’ (BBC)