Chinese Political Dissident Liu Xiaobo Wins Nobel Peace Prize

by Roger Alford

Today’s announcement that Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo has won the Nobel Peace Prize is welcome news. The award is consistent with a longstanding tradition of the Nobel Peace Prize to honor political dissidents. In announcing the prize, the Nobel Committee stated that “The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.”

The media is focusing on the fact that Liu is only the third recipient to receive the prize while in prison, the first two being German opposition journalist Carl von Ossietzky and, of course, Aung San Suu Kyi. But since 1960, there have been many other recipients honored for political dissent, including Martin Luther King, South Africans Albert Lutuli, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela, pro-democracy dissidents Kim Dae-jung, Carlos Belos, and Jose Ramos-Horta, and Communist dissidents Lech Walesa, Andrei Sakharov, and the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese government has responded to the announcement with outrage. “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” the statement said. Awarding the peace prize to Liu “runs completely counter to the principle of the prize and is also a blasphemy to the peace prize.” The Chinese government also warned the Nobel Committee that giving the prize to Liu “would adversely affect relations between the two countries.”

The Chinese response is almost identical to Nazi Germany’s response to the Carl von Ossietzky prize. Ossietzky was editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Die Weltbuhne, which published numerous stories about the secret efforts of Germany to re-arm in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Ossietsky was imprisoned for betraying military secrets. When news broke in 1935 that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Hitler exploded with fury, describing it as “an insult to the German people.” The German Government issued a declaration that “the award of the Nobel Prize to a notorious traitor is such a brazen challenge and insult to the New Germany that it will be followed by an appropriate unequivocal answer.” Hitler went so far as to forbid Germans from accepting Nobel Prizes and issued a decree establishing competing prizes for Germans who excelled in the arts and sciences. Hermann Goering announced the new German national prizes with rhetorical flourish: “When we see attempts to insult Germany before the world by awarding a peace prize to a traitor, to a person punished with penal servitude, then such action does not shame Germany but merely makes those ridiculous who are responsible for it.”

The Chinese response also is remarkably similar to the Soviet response when Andrei Sakharov won the prize. The Soviet official press, Tass, responded to the award of the 1975 peace prize to Sakharov by attacking the Nobel Committee: This award “only shows that the persons who awarded this prize were guided by interests other than the interests of peace.” They also attacked Sakharov, describing him as a modern-day Judas Iscariot. “It is difficult to say how [the prize money] corresponds at the official rate of exchange to the 30 pieces of silver that the ancient Judas received. The bourgeoisie has paid for services rendered, and the ‘high court’ of the West is delighted.”

As with other dissident Laureates, Liu’s voice will now command power as never before. Desmond Tutu, after he won the prize, stated that “no sooner had I got the Nobel Peace Prize than I became an instant oracle…. [Th]he prestigious prize possessed the remarkable powers of an Open Sesame…. Our case was given an imprimatur as a noble and just cause and the apartheid system stamped as unjust and evil.” If the past is any example, Liu’s prize will give him such prestige that he will be almost immune from Chinese government attack. Like other dissident Laureates, he will have much more freedom to speak without fear of reprisal, and everything he says will be taken with utter seriousness.

The prize could have broad repercussions. We could see the modern-day equivalent of what Daniel Thomas described as the “Helsinki Effect” in the Soviet Union, with human rights taking on added significance there following the signing of the Helsinki Accords. To borrow from Thomas, human rights matters today in China not “because the Communist regimes were immediately anxious to comply … [but rather] because individuals and NGOs … [will insist] that states must be accountable to their international obligations, and thereby entrapped … in a transnational process of political change structured by formal international norms.”

The Nobel Committee is adopting the same approach, using international and constitutional commitments to pressure the Communist regime to reform. As the Committee put it today, “China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that ‘Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.’ In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.”

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/10/08/chinese-political-dissident-liu-xiaobo-wins-nobel-peace-prize/

10 Responses

  1. China can pretend it’s modernizing all it wants, but its true colors always have a way of showing, don’t they?

  2. It is great honour for xiaobo because fought agaist CRUEL china.

  3. [_____], if he doesn´t like it in China…why doesn´t he move to the United States if he thinks it is so great here? We ONCE had a 100 sq foot free speech area 5 miles from the Republican Conventions that nominated George W. Bush who then became president…by loosing two elections. And we have a bigger Cult of Incumbents than the defunct communist party ever had. AND this country rapes more of the world´s resources and causes the greatest amount of terror and unbearable poverty by maintaining more weapons of mass destruction than any other two insane nations on the face of the earth. But that still does not even take into account that this land of ¨freedom¨ has  more people in prison…than any other country on the face of the earth.

    [____] idolizing Xiaobo and the Noble Peace Prize! WTF have YOU ever done for world peace, [___]? And to keep everyone in ignorance and from finding out what does not get reported…you are forbidden by the Patriot Act to go HERE!

    So don´t say you weren´t warned!

    Pointless profanity deleted — KJH.

  4. Elbow, thigh, gluteus maximus, pectorial majors, behind, seminal fluid, excrement…ohh it really is hard to know just what words are not dirty sometimes. Especially (censored)

    So just had ad to update my ¨pointless profanity¨ with this:

    You can´t help but love a world where billions live in acceptable obscene poverty and even more billions live in acceptable blasphemous slavery so that petty small minded sites have enough time on their hands to monitor with censorship…words of rage and passion for being unacceptable.  

    PS.  
    And just for the record I do not believe in the dictatorship of the majority. I´m an…ANARCHIST!

  5. You can’t help but love a world where commenters to blogs think profanity and capital letters are adequate substitutes for logic and argument.

  6. Now I get it! The Nobel Committee cleverly awarded Obama the prize, not in recognition of his having become the forty-somethingst person to win an American Presidential election, but so that they could then decorate a Chinese dissident and only then invite all the laureates to a gala banquet at which Obama would have to fraternise with a noted Chinese dissident.

    They really are clever chaps aren’t they?

  7. I always support the dissenters in authoritarian states, but giving the prize one year to Obama then a Chinese dissident the next year does look a little like the west ganging up on the east.  Obama’s prize was the mistake though.

  8. I do not think that the decision to award Liu the prize has anything to do with Obama.  The Nobel Committee routinely awards political dissidents the prize, and has done so three times so far in the 21st century (Kim Dae-Jung, Shirin Ebadi, and Liu Xiaobo).  In some cases, as with Kim Dae Jung and Nelson Mandela, it is to honor a dissident after having achieved successful reform.  In most cases, however, it is to spur political reform in countries such as China, Indonesia, Iran, and Burma.  In some cases, as with East Timor, the prize makes a big difference.  In other cases, as with Iran and Burma, it is not clear it has made any significant difference.

    Roger Alford

  9. Keven re:

    ¨You can’t help but love a world where commenters to blogs think profanity and capital letters are adequate substitutes for logic and argument.¨

    Absolutely brilliant one sentence eloquence! And based entirely on the irrefutable logic of Argumentum Ad Hominem. And which explains totally why capital letters and words are filthy where as weapons of mass destruction are a meaningless distraction among true civilized rectums.

    BTW, in the interest of your incredible and intuitive sophism. I do have to use a spell checker since I am virtually a dyslexic speller and I love porn and I am 5´ 4¨. I trust that should further prove your point.

  10. Or to put it another way, since every country is a house of glass window panes…it is amazing how easy it is to see the obvious ugliness of the most distant lands while ignoring the sewage we all are feeding upon…in our own backyards of HATRED.

    Or as it is explained so timelessly well in the Dialogues of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes…

    Plutonium: How say thee? Doth not the majority always do what is best for the greatest good?

    Socrates: Yes. That is true. The equestrian only wants what is best for the horse.

    Plutonium: And doth thou not see what is good for the majority surely is true…even if it be a lie?

    Socrates: Yes that is correctamundo. No Germans or Americans or Chinese or Aussie Mates nor any others ever knew of any Holocaust which is a part of the collective human psych…nor am I responsible for any. Therefore denial doth work best.

    Plutonium: So thou see with all of thy heart that international corporations and the majority has feelings and a superior conscience? For if you prick one or the other, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh? If you poison them, do not millions suffer and die? And if you wrong them, do they not seek unfathomable revenge? Thus they are better and more important than the individual and it is good to drink the potion. For what is good for the State is the deification of the dead and the codification of the current prejudice which we shall call Law…for nothing is cheaper than human life.

    Socrates: To the glory of the State!

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