Friday, October 8, 2010

China Rejects Nobel Peace Prize Choice


Very few people inside China have heard the name Liu Xiaobo, but last week he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (He is far more deserving for this honor than the one chosen last year.) The choice of Liu is this year’s foremost symbol of the struggle for human rights in China.

Liu Xiaobo is presently serving an eleven year sentence for urging the “Charter 08,” a human rights manifesto, be accepted for discussion among the people and the government of the People’s Republic of China. (Ever notice how all “People’s Republics” or “people’s movements” have little concern for the people.)

“Charter 08,” that he supported two years ago, called for a new constitution in China, an independent judiciary and the simple freedom of expression. It was backed by 300 China academics, artists, lawyers and activists, who want a fuller debate about China's future political development.

The Beijing government never liked even the thought of “Charter 08” and now the choice of Liu receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace sticks in their craw. The free world leaders praised the choice. Does the Communist Party of China give it consideration? Yes, they took about two seconds and immediately called the Norwegian ambassador to come to Party headquarters to protest Norway’s bad choice. They called Liu a “criminal,” and such an award could damage relations with Norway. A typical response by paranoid government officials.

Liu (one syllable pronounced lee-oh) has been a political activitist even before the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre of students seeking more democracy. I was in Beijing for a week before the martial law was enforced. The protests were peaceful and did not want to overthrow the government. The Premier, Zhao Ziyang, begged the students to leave the square, knowing what would happen if they stayed. (Zhao was later fired and kept under house arrest until his death. Typical of how China treats its more thoughtful and patriotic people – those who love China.)

Liu Xiaobo, 54, author, university professor and a constant annoyance for the Chinese Communist Party was not informed of the Peace Prize. Since last December he has been in a prison in Liaoning province for “subverting state power.”

The 1989 massacre made a deep impression on him and was one of the reasons the Beijing Normal University banned him from teaching. For the last dozen years he has not let up criticizing China’s treatment of Tibetans. In 1996 Liu was arrested for speaking out about China’s one-party political system. Instead of prison he was sent for re-education at a labor camp for three years.

Then in 2008 he was arrested again, just two days before the “Charter 08” was to be published. It was typical of the late night arrests one-party countries do to perfection. When his wife, Liu Xia, asked the authorities about his where-abouts, they ignored her. The authorities would not admit to taking him. It was weeks before news of his arrest was made public.

At his trial in December last year the United States government felt compelled to speak out: "We call on the Government of China to release [Liu Xiaobo] immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views.”

Announcing its 2010 peace prize in Oslo, the Nobel Foundation said: "Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights."

The police said if his wife wants to go to his prison and tell of the prize, they will allow that. How nice of them!


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