Nobel Prize Puts China’s Leaders to Shame

December 9th, 2010 at 11:30 pm | 24 Comments |

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Today, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to Chinese dissident and peace activist Liu Xiaobo. But Liu’s seat at the ceremony will be empty because the Chinese government has imprisoned him on trumped-up charges and has forbidden even his family to attend the ceremony to receive the award on his behalf. Also empty will be 18 seats from embassies around the world who have pitifully decided not to attend the ceremony in a show of support for China.

In awarding Liu the Prize for 2010, the Nobel Committee said it was in recognition of his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Committee noted 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.

Liu is currently serving the first year of an 11 year prison sentence for supposedly spreading a message to ‘subvert the country and authority’. His crime you ask? Co-authoring and then circulating on the Internet a pro-democracy manifesto affirming the importance of freedom, human rights and equality as “universal values shared by all humankind” and calling for direct elections, judicial independence, democracy and equality. How heinous of him! Liu has served three prior jail sentences in China for similar charges over the past twenty years.

Many leaders from the United States and Europe and human rights activists from around the world have called for Liu’s immediate release. However the calls to China have, predictably, fallen on deaf ears.

Equally predictable have been efforts by the Chinese government to exert strong pressure on countries to boycott the Oslo ceremony, after it was incensed over the award to the jailed dissident.

Of the countries that have disgracefully acquiesced to Chinese pressure and declined to attend this year’s ceremony, the list hardly reads as your democratic all-star team.  It includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco.  Six of these countries even shamefully occupy a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

In the absence of Liu and his family, there will instead be an empty chair and a portrait of Liu on the podium.

In an open letter in The Washington Post to Chinese President Hu Jintao, Yang Jianli, a former political prisoner in China, current Harvard fellow and the liaison to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee on behalf of Liu’s wife, writes that:

a vacant seat on the stage will speak of weakness and fear. It will raise the specter of a government that clings to the past and is unwilling or unable to accept change based on the realities of life and the desires of its people.

It is perhaps no coincidence that on the same day the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, the world also celebrates International Human Rights Day, honoring the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 1948 as the first global enunciation of human rights.

If there is any bright light from Liu’s empty seat (and those of the 19 countries), it is that their absence will shine a glaring light on China’s abysmal human rights record. Only question is – will the world pay attention and do something about it?

Recent Posts by Arsen Ostrovsky



24 Comments so far ↓

  • jg bennet

    Maybe Russia is right and Assange will get it next year… I’m thinking we would be feeling about the same as China does now.

    Carl von Ossietzky (3 October 1889 – 4 May 1938) was a radical German pacifist and the recipient of the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize.

    He was convicted of high treason and espionage in 1931 after publishing details of Germany’s alleged violation of the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding an Air force, the predecessor of the Luftwaffe and training pilots in the Soviet Union.

    The award was extremely controversial, prompting two members of the prize committee to resign. King Haakon VII of Norway, who had been present at other award ceremonies, stayed away from the ceremony. The award divided public opinion, and was generally condemned by conservative forces. The leading conservative Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten argued in an editorial that Ossietzky was a criminal who had attacked his country “with the use of methods that violated the law.”

  • pnumi2

    Arsen

    “Liu is currently serving the first year of an 11 year prison sentence for supposedly spreading a message to ‘subvert the country and authority’. His crime you ask? Co-authoring and then circulating on the Internet a pro-democracy manifesto affirming the importance of freedom, human rights and equality as “universal values shared by all humankind” and calling for direct elections, judicial independence, democracy and equality. How heinous of him! Liu has served three prior jail sentences in China for similar charges over the past twenty years.”

    Are you saying that an independent and internationally recognized nation — one with a permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council — doesn’t have the authority to write and enforce it’s own laws? And if a defendant is found guilty, that China doesn’t have the right to exact punishment according to the letter of the law?

    Do nations today have to clear their laws with all other nations? Are our laws subject to the same scrutiny as that we applied toward China in Xiaobo’s case? Are all the laws of all the nations accepted equally or are some (like ours) more equal?

    Did we care what the international community said about our use of extraordinary rendition? Do you think China cares what we think about this case? Did Walmart cancel any orders? Did any body cancel any orders?

    Oh, and that list of the usual shady suspects/nations. You know what they’re really saying?

    “STFU about our laws.”

    two additions:

    1) I do feel badly for Xiaobo. Perhaps what his manefesto called for was what the Chinese government considered to be the equivalent of the “violent overthrow of the(ir) government.” Has anyone read the transcripts of the trial. Was it in Mandarin or Cantonese?
    2) When that day comes, as come it must, when we are sitting at a table with the Chinese, negotiating the liquidation of America’s debt to them, will the Xiaobo affair make those talks harder or easier? Does it matter?

  • Nanotek

    Thank you, Mr. Ostrovsky.

  • Nanotek

    pnumi2, I haven’t read the trial transcripts but his crime is his contributions to Chater 08

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_08

  • A Bit of Reason

    Pnumi2:

    “Are you saying that an independent and internationally recognized nation — one with a permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council — doesn’t have the authority to write and enforce it’s own laws? And if a defendant is found guilty, that China doesn’t have the right to exact punishment according to the letter of the law?”

    Ever heard of Nazi Germany? So according to your logic, you’d have no problems with them either then, right?

    I think the Chinese Communist Party secretariat should employ you as their PR man.

  • balconesfault

    A bit of reason: Ever heard of Nazi Germany?

    Wow. If China is Nazi Germany, I’m thinking we should start demanding that all our corporations begin divesting from there.

  • arturod

    Just to clarify, the Colombian government has stated that it will, in fact, send a representative to the ceremony and that it has no desire to align itself with the opposition to Liu Xiaobo’s prize.
    The story is in the “Semana.com” website:
    http://www.semana.com/noticias-nacion/colombia-asistira-entrega-del-nobel-paz-canciller-holguin/148621.aspx

    Nonetheless, one has to wait and see if they keep that promise.

  • jg bennet

    We don’t have to divest we just have to take Trump’s advice and put a tariff on all their goods. I am no fan of China and I see we the people coming together (if we had a president with cajones) to stand up to them, out compete them and give the totalitarian bastards the ole American “what fer”. The Chinese are the new Nazi’s and we, like we were the Third Reich, are enriching them

  • sinz54

    As I’m fond of saying, here as elsewhere: Nothing succeeds like success.

    The hard-core Left will never admit it, but human rights in the world would be in far worse shape, had advanced Western democracies like America lost World War II or lost the Cold War. America’s model of democratic capitalism seemed to work, and so lots of nations decided to adopt that model. Humans are very pragmatic creatures; if American democratic capitalism had been beaten by either Nazi Germany’s fascism or the Soviet Union’s Communism, then most nations would have followed those models rather than our own.

    If China eclipses the United States by 2030 as some futurists are predicting, then look for much of the world to abandon the democratic American model and switch over to the fascist Chinese model. That is, a combination of state directed corporatism, suppression of dissent, and very limited human rights.

    I don’t think the hard-core Left will like that–even though they had admired Mao’s China for many years.

    Reminds me of a line from an old novel, “The Wanting of Levine”:

    To all those on the Left who don’t like the idea of America as the leading superpower:

    Wait 20 years, and then tell me how much you like it when we’re not.

  • balconesfault

    The hard-core Left will never admit it, but human rights in the world would be in far worse shape, had advanced Western democracies like America lost World War II or lost the Cold War.

    Who the hell are the “hard-core Left” that wouldn’t admit something like that?

    I mean … fighting strawmen is one thing. But at least make them somewhat tied to reality?

    I can see why Sinz gets so upset about these hard-core leftists. If they actually existed and had any chance at gaining political power in America, I might get upset too.

    Bur fortunately, only within deranged minds do they really have any power.

  • Rob_654

    The Chinese leaders are not feeling any shame at all – they never have and never will…

  • politicalfan

    “I can see why Sinz gets so upset about these hard-core leftists. If they actually existed and had any chance at gaining political power in America, I might get upset too.”

    What about those hard-core righties? Let’s just put it this way, if we see that in the next two years, say hello Mr. President (Barack Obama)!!!

    Rob-654- I could agree with you but I don’t. Evidently our Senators don’t have much shame either. They would rather let things fail to get a little extra for their party. The concept of (selling out) for power should make things clear about the dynamics of other places that we deem to be shameless.

  • lessadoabouteverything

    good article but I have one little exception: China’s abysmal human rights record.

    I wouldn’t call is abysmal, that label fits better with North Korea, there are gradations of bad and China is nowhere near North Korea so lets keep distinctions.

    It is interesting to note that Wen Jiabao was Zhao Ziyangs former assistant, and he watched Zhao spend the rest of his life under house arrest, and Hu Jintao was a protege of Deng Xiaoping, whose son was crippled during the Cultural revolution. These people grew up under tremendous turmoil
    and are scared to death of the people, the next 20 years shall tell the tale of the new China as the Children of the past Kai Fang (opening up) period come of age

    by the way, transcripts can be in neither Mandarin or Cantonese, they are in Chinese characters, that is a person who speaks only Wu can write with a person who speaks only Cantonese or Mandarin and communicate quite well.

  • jg bennet

    we should just accept the fact that the chinese are the bad guys and we as a country need a bad guy who has a flag instead of a holy book. bad guys/competition help us focus and we are in dire need of a laser focus and who better to put the bead on than our old nemesis the communists. china is the new soviets and go figure they call themselves communists to boot. i mean really look at the wikileaks cables, china sends missile parts to iran, support north korea, are buddies with mugabe and every other despot on the planet, arm sudan aaand they imprison a nobel peace prize winner.

    remember this? they relish the idea!!
    http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/59191/Chinese_Professor/

  • pnumi2

    A Bit of Reason

    China has not yet invaded Poland.

    Do not mistake my point. If sovereign nations do not like the laws of other sovereign nations, let them withdraw diplomatic recognition. Let all trade with with the pariah nations cease. Let the offended nations prepare for cold war.

    Do you remember Dr. Jack Kevorkian. If the non-Christian countries of China and India had objected to his trial, conviction and sentence of 10 to 25 years in prison, should our judicial system have removed all charges and convictions against him? And returned his legal costs?

    And what Kevorkian did was, to me, a far more important piece of human rights than what Liu Xiaobo did in China. He helped the suffering and pain-ridden “shuffle off their mortal coil” when doing so was their penultimate option, other than continuing the status quo.

    Americans must rid themselves of their terrible hypocrisy and laughable double standards.

  • jg bennet

    pnumi2

    “Americans must rid themselves of their terrible hypocrisy and laughable double standards.”

    assange is helping us out with the hypocrisy/double standard problem by exposing the truth in our lies…..hence the russians calling for his nobel prize

  • pnumi2

    jg bennet

    What irony that the West is in hot pursuit of Assange at the moment they decided to make an issue of the Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo, who was not permitted by the Chinese to accept it

    If Assange is awarded the Peace Prize next year, will our government be any less obnoxious about Assange receiving it than the Chinese are now about Liu?

    Someone should tell the policy and law makers in Washington that America no longer holds all the cards. China holds 2 1/2 trillion of our notes and may not be anxious to accept any more. A trade war with China is not what the American consumer needs now.

    Let’s take the advice of that great American, Rodney King: ‘Come on people, can’t we all get along?”

  • jg bennet

    pnimi2

    assange and his wikileaks is to information what oppenheimer and the manhattan project were to warfare.

    the truth genie has been released and the geeks can’t help themselves but to evolve it. it is just like the scientists who began the quest of chasing the atom shortly after the trinity test. BOOM! the truth mushrooms like a bright light, vaporizes structures then radiates everything it touches.

    the world is rocked by the weapon then of course the scientists get to work and go for the bigger boom.

    Several key members involved with online whistleblower WikiLeaks are said to be deserting beleaguered founder Julian Assange to form their own rival site, Openleaks, reportedly expected to launch Monday.

    According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the new site will be called “Openleaks,” and like its predecessor, will allow whistleblowers to leak information to the public anonymously. However, the new site will differ in that it won’t be responsible for hosting the information itself directly for the public eye, but will instead act as an intermediary between whistleblowers and media organizations.

    “Our long term goal is to build a strong, transparent platform to support whistleblowers–both in terms of technology and politics–while at the same time encouraging others to start similar projects,” a colleague wishing to remain anonymous is quoted by Dagens Nyheter as saying.

    “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

    Robert Oppenheimer

  • pnumi2

    jg bennet

    It’s Darwin’s Evolution of the Website. I hope the Nobel Committee is around next year to support Openleaks, WikiLeak’s new incarnation.

    I also hope Assange gets out of this in one piece. I’m not sure whether or not he wants to get extradited from England to Sweden and which would be more inclined to extradite him to the U.S.
    if our diplomatic pressure is successful.

    That America could have laws which every citizen on the planet could run afoul of without ever setting footing this country is pretty amazing.

  • jg bennet

    pnumi2

    it is a story as old as the american idea and we are still here…..

    “If there is ever to be an amelioration of the condition of man-kind, philosophers, theologians, legislators, politicians and moralists will find that the regulation of the press is the most difficult, dangerous and important they have to resolve “.

    John Adams, to his friend John Lloyd on 11 February 1815.

  • Video: The empty chair « Hot Air

    [...] ministry issued angry statements and demanded (with some success) that its authoritarian allies boycott the award; the Chinese gestapo were deployed to snatch friends of Liu off the streets; and the government [...]

  • pnumi2

    jg bennet

    It must be Gods’ Will.

    As to what’s coming. I guess some of us think that more hypocrisy and self-righteousness will buy us our ticket back to the Halcyon Days we are pining for.

    Oh, Lord, when the liquidation of our assets hits the fan, be merciful.

  • A Bit of Reason

    Pnumi2:

    “If sovereign nations do not like the laws of other sovereign nations, let them withdraw diplomatic recognition. Let all trade with with the pariah nations cease. Let the offended nations prepare for cold war.”

    So, what you’re saying is that if another State is committing gross human rights abuses, we should just sit idly by and do nothing (other than withdraw diplomatic relations – coz that’s really gonna help those who are suffering)?

  • pnumi2

    A Bit of Reason

    “if another State is committing gross human rights abuses, we should just sit idly by and do nothing (other than withdraw diplomatic relations – coz that’s really gonna help those who are suffering)?”

    Doesn’t that depend on the size and the power of of the offending state or did you expect Holland to attack Germany in 1938? (As a matter of fact, we were a little tardy in WWII. Or maybe we were building up our strength.)

    We had absolutely no problem taking out the human rights abusers in Iraq at the beginning of this century. That they were sitting on the world’s second largest deposit of oil didn’t thwart our resolve.

    The unintended consequence of our rescuing those abused by Saddam’s heinous ways are two: we had to kill and maim hundreds of thousands human rights possessors to obtain our human rights goals.

    More to the point, as rich as America is, it was the first war America couldn’t afford to wage.

    Unbeknownst to human rights defenders, such as yourself, another branch of government cut the taxes on U.S. citizens because the mission in Iraq was almost accomplished.

    So the tax cut hit the annual budgets of our nation creating bigger deficits and the interest on these deficits all got lumped together in a $14 trillion national debt.( Don’t forget the cost of the war to stamp out human rights violations kept upping the bill.)

    I won’t go into the bursting of the biggest bubble since the Big Bang. You must have heard about it.

    And I defended China in its reaction to Norway’s bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize on Liu Xiaobo and you chastised me for it.

    My point is that China is the West’s Frankenstein’s monster. England, France, Germany, The United States all made China into the 1000 pound gorilla that it is today. Read about the 2 Opium wars. Read about the Boxer Rebellion. Compute the amount of restitution that 8 nations who came into China uninvited, made China pay them to leave.

    Do you think that anger disappeared when Mao took over? Or when Nixon went there in 1972? Do you think it’s gone now?

    China holds $2 1/2 trillion of our bonds. Can they make mischief with that? Can they stop taking dollars in payment for their exports? Can they keep the value of the renminbi low effecting our exports?

    You get into a spitting match with China. Not me.