In China’s upside-down world where black is white, the great honor of the Nobel Peace Prize being given to Liu Xiaobo, a writer, intellectual and human rights activist, has been denounced by the government as a “desecration” of the award because it was given to “a criminal who broke China’s laws.”
That is more a condemnation of Chinese laws than of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which said in its announcement, “China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights.”
The committee honored Liu for his “long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” But, assuming the mantle of defender of Alfred Nobel, creator of the prize, a Chinese government spokesman said the proper recipient should be someone who has worked for “fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
The Nobel committee countered by saying it “has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace” and that “such rights are a prerequisite for the ‘fraternity between nations’ of which Alfred Nobel wrote.”
China’s reaction has been to censor news of the award, round up supporters of Liu and put his wife under house arrest. By these actions, the government has condemned itself and justified the decision to honor Liu as “the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights.”
The Nobel Peace Prize is a major morale boost for dissidents in China, who have suffered from ever-increasing repression. It requires incredible courage to be a dissident in China, struggling for freedom, but the struggle continues despite all odds.
This indomitable spirit was evident again recently when a human rights lawyer, Yang Jinzhu, called on Wang Shengjun, the president of the Supreme People’s Court, to resign after the court authorized the execution of Fan Qihang in Chongqing despite evidence that he had been tortured into confessing to murder and other crimes.
Yang’s fate is unclear, but the lawyer has made it clear that he will persevere in his campaign against the country’s top judge until either his own death or imprisonment, or the removal of the judge from office.
One of the few newspaper articles about the award for Liu Xiaobo is an editorial in Global Times headlined “2010 Nobel Peace Prize a disgrace,” which accuses the Nobel committee of “trying to impose Western values on China.”
Writers of such articles seem to have forgotten that Karl Marx, who was turned into a god by the Chinese Communist Party, was a Westerner and socialism itself is a Western idea.
Moreover, recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize include those who worked for human rights in other countries, including Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Kim Dae Jung in Korea and Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States.
None of those countries accused the committee of trying to impose Western values on them.
The values espoused by Liu were reflected in a statement he made in court Dec. 23, two days before he was sentenced.
In that statement, he said that he had no enemies and no hatred — not for the police who monitored and questioned him, not for the prosecutors who sought to imprison him and not for the judges who sentenced him.
“For hatred,” he said, “is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy.”
Instead, he said, he hoped to counter the hostility of the government and “defuse hate with love.”
“There is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom,” Liu said.
Strangely enough, those words found an echo recently when Premier Wen Jiabao was interviewed on CNN by Fareed Zakaria.
Speaking of his determination to bring about political reform in China, Wen said, “The wish and will of the people are not stoppable. Those who go along with the trend will thrive and those who go against the trend will fail.”
With such an ally, Liu Xiaobo may yet see his aspirations realized one day. But that day isn’t here yet. Even Wen’s words have been censored in China.
Frank Ching is a journalist and commentator based in Hong Kong. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.