Friday, October 08, 2010

At long last, the Nobel Peace Prize committee gets it right

After jokes like giving the Peace Prize to Obama, Al Gore, or Jimmy Carter or the ineffectual IAEA and the UN, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to Liu Xiaobo who actually has fought and suffered in his battles for human rights in China.
Liu Xiaobo, an impassioned literary critic, political essayist and democracy advocate repeatedly jailed by the Chinese government for his writings, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

Mr. Liu, 54, perhaps China’s best known dissident, is currently serving an 11-year term on subversion charges.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the news, calling it a “blasphemy” to the Peace Prize and saying it would harm Norwegian-Chinese relations. “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” it said in a statement.

Mr. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize and one of three laureates to have received it while in prison.

In awarding the prize to Mr. Liu, the Norwegian Nobel Committee delivered an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s authoritarian leaders at a time of growing intolerance for domestic dissent and spreading unease internationally over the muscular diplomacy that has accompanied China’s economic rise.

In a move that in retrospect may have been counterproductive, a senior Chinese official recently warned the Norwegian committee’s chairman that giving the prize to Mr. Liu would adversely affect relations between the two countries.
This is an award in the spirit of what the award was meant to celebrate. It is reminiscent of the Peace Prize for Lech Walesa and Andrei Sakharovo or the literature prize to Solzhenitsyn.
The prize is an enormous boost for China’s beleaguered reform movement and an affirmation of the two decades Mr. Liu has spent advocating peaceful political change in the face of unremitting hostility from the ruling Chinese Community Party.

Blacklisted from academia and barred from publishing in China, Mr. Liu has been harassed and detained repeatedly since 1989, when he stepped into the drama playing out on Tiananmen Square by staging a hunger strike and then negotiating the peaceful retreat of student demonstrators as thousands of soldiers stood by with rifles at the ready.

“If not for the work of Liu and the others to broker a peaceful withdrawal from the square, Tiananmen Square would have been a field of blood on June 4,” said Gao Yu, a veteran journalist who was arrested in the hours before the tanks began moving through the city.

His most recent arrest in December of 2008 came a day before a reformist manifesto he helped craft began circulating on the Internet. The petition, entitled Charter ‘08, demanded that China’s rulers embrace human rights, judicial independence and the kind of political reform that would ultimately end the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

“For all these years, Liu Xiaobo has persevered in telling the truth about China and because of this, for the fourth time, he has lost his personal freedom,” his wife, Liu Xia, said earlier this week.
And just think - the committee could have made this choice last year instead of embarrassing itself by awarding Obama an award for his potential rather than for any actual accomplishment. Perhaps they're ashamed and wanted to make up for such a mistake last year.

Let us hop that the publicity of this award will force China to bow to international pressure and free Mr. Liu.