Friday, October 08, 2010

Chinese dissident wins peace prize

Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident and writer serving an 11-year jail sentence, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. The decision to award the prize to Liu has angered the Chinese government who have called it "blasphemous". The Nobel committee said on Friday that Liu, who was sentenced last December on charges of "incitement to subvert state power", had demonstrated "a long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

News of the award has not been widely reported in China. State news organisations have yet to publicise the award, though Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu Quan did respond to questions earlier. The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded "to promote national harmony and promote international friendship and to promote disarmament and peace for the convening of meetings and promotional efforts of the people", which is Nobel's wishes, Jiang said. "Liu is in breach of Chinese law by the Chinese judicial organs of criminals sentenced to imprisonment, and its behaviour and contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. Connaught Committee awarded the Peace Prize to such a person, completely contrary to the purpose of the award and also the desecration of the Peace Prize." She went on to suggest that the award "will bring damage to the Sino-Norwegian relations." [FMPRC].

CNN's reporting of the story has been blanked out within mainland China, though the news has spread on some social networking websites. The BBC World news channel was also censored by Chinese authorities. As the announcer began to introduce the story the screen went blank. "An imprisoned Chinese dissident wins the Nobel Peace Pri..." (screen goes black). However, many Chinese are unfamiliar with Liu Xiaobo, or indeed his Charter 08 campaign which called for greater human rights. "Who is he?" said one Chinese national who spoke to tvnewswatch online from China earlier today. 

Chinese censorship went into overdrive on Friday with search terms such as "Nobel Peace Prize" and ""Liu Xiaobo" returning errors. There are also reports of SMS messages being blocked containing the dissident's name in Chinese; 刘晓波. Sina and other social networking portals were reportedly being heavily censored with any mention of the Nobel Prize winner being expunged. 

It was early evening in Beijing before Xinhua finally published the story. Both the English and Chinese versions were critical of the award. "The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to people who contribute to national harmony, country-to-country friendship, advancing disarmament, and convening and propagandizing peace conferences," Ma Zhaoxu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo "desecrated the prize and could harm China-Norway ties," Ma was reported as saying.

While China has been critical of the award, most countries have applauded the decision. The British Foreign Office released a statement saying it "shines a spotlight on human rights' defenders worldwide." German government spokesman Steffen Seibert speaking at a news conference said that his government had congratulated Liu for winning the award. Seibert said he has asked China to release Liu so he can pick up his prize. Germany has sought his release since he was jailed in 2009. 

Bernard Kouchner, French minister of foreign affairs, said the decision to award Liu the Nobel Prize "represents the defence of human rights around the world. France, like the European Union, expressed concern upon his arrest, and called for his release on several occasions. It reiterates that call now. France also repeats its support of freedom of expression around the world. The Nobel committee, which made its choice independently, wanted to send a strong message to all those who peacefully advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights."

The Dalai Lama, a former Nobel Peace prize winner himself, published a post on his website offering his "heart-felt congratulations" to Liu. "Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community's recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms," the Dalai Lama said.

It is the first time that the Nobel Peace prize has been given to a Chinese national. But it is not the first time that China has been angered over the decision to award the coveted prize. When the Dalai Lama was given the Nobel Peace Prize, China lambasted the decision. "I still can't figure out how he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," said Zhang Qingli, the party chief of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, said at the time. "What Peace has he brought to the world?"

China's state controlled news agency has continually dismissed the value of the Nobel Prize for Peace, saying "it is awarded in accordance with western values, so it contains intense subjective political characteristics and lacks objectiveness." Giving the peace prize to what China sees as a criminal is likely only to bolster nationalistic sentiment. Some fear it may result in lengthening Liu's jail term. 

In his last post before being jailed Liu said, "I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints."

He may be happy at his having been given this award. But it may also make things more difficult for him and his family. According to latest reports his wife has been ordered to leave Beijing by police. "They want to distance me from the media," Liu Xia said [Reuters / BBC / SkyCNN / Al Jazeera / France24 / RTWashington Post / FT / Wikipedia]

see also: tvnewswatch - Liu Xiaobo sentenced amid protests

tvnewswatch, London, UK

No comments: