Liu Xiaobo, this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace prize, is often called the “conscience” of China. Currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion, Liu had been a strong advocate for human rights, freedom of expression, and democracy in China. He had joined student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989, and spent time in prison following the crackdown ordered by the authorites. But that did not deter him from fighting for the causes that he believed in. Liu was setenced last year to 11 years in jail for helping to organise and disseminate a document called
Friday, it was announced that Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s most famous political prisoners, had won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Liu, an academic who has been active in the Chinese human rights movement for more than two decades, was arrested in 2008 for helping to author and circulate the Charter 08 petition, which called for political reform and greater freedom of expression in China. The news of his award has been greeted with hearty approval from onlookers on the left and right.
- Why He Was Nominated Foreign Policy reprints a letter from Kwame Anthony Appiah, the author and president of PEN American Center, who nominated Liu to the Nobel Committee. In the letter, Appiah acknowledges that “there are voices within the [Chinese] regime, we know, urging greater respect for free expression. China wants–and needs–to be heard in the community of nations.” But, he says, “the world must let China’s rulers know that we can only listen respectfully if they offer to their own citizens the fundamental freedoms we all claim from our governments. This is the right moment for the world to show those in China who do not understand that history is on freedom’s side that all the world’s friends of peace and democracy are watching.”
- China Not Pleased, Moves to Censor News The Wall Street Journal’s Laurie Burkitt reports that no mention of Liu or the award can be found in Chinese media. “Access to news segments broadcast on CNN and BBC International, normally available, have been blocked by government censors,” Burkitt writes. “China’s Web censors have deleted chatter from Liu’s colleagues, as well as China’s intellectuals and elite, that began to spread on China’s blogs and message boards only minutes after the news broke. On Sina, personal comments that referred to Liu as LXB or Liu Liu, avoiding his full name, disappeared an hour after having been posted. Remarks that said, ‘He won,’ are no longer visible.”
- This Will Hurt Norway-China Relations, declares J.M. at The Economist, echoing the thoughts of many others. The award “will infuriate Chinese leaders,” and may provoke the “hardliners in China who argue that the West is bent on undermining Communist Party rule”–and who say China should “take advantage of the West’s economic malaise to assert its own interests more robustly.” The author isn’t optimistic about the net effect on human rights: “There will be an upsurge in demands from abroad for Mr Liu’s release. Yet major Western powers are little inclined to jeopardise their relationships with China for the sake of individual dissidents.”
- Still, Liu’s Writings Harder to Suppress Now Before the decision was announced, Nicholas Bequelin at Foreign Policy predicted that Liu’s win would occasion “a groundswell of interest in Charter 08 and Liu’s writings in China itself. Whereas the writings of dissidents have so far been limited to the relatively small circles of Chinese citizens who know how to circumvent Beijing’s extensive Internet censorship, the Nobel Prize would confer to Liu an instant notoriety that would make it impossible to prevent the mass diffusion of Charter 08 and Liu’s other writings.”
- Probably Won’t Hasten His Release Liu’s lawyer, Shang Baojun, told CNN that the prize won’t get Liu out of prison any sooner, and may actually delay his freedom. “I hope that he’d be released earlier because of the prize, but in reality, that will not happen,” Shang said.
- Obama Suffers From Comparison At Commentary, Jennifer Rubin dryly notes that “the Nobelians could hardly have done worse than last year’s choice for the Peace Prize.” The 2009 prize, of course, went to Barack Obama, whose record on Chinese human rights Rubin finds soundly lacking. “Could it be that the 2009 Peace Prize winner has done nothing to advance the causes for which the 2010 winner is sacrificing so much?” she asks.
- Three Cheers for This News NPR’s Scott Simon is unreservedly glad. “Our half-Chinese family happy Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel,” he tweets. “Daughter’s birth country will one day be better for his sacrifice.”