Jailed Chinese Democracy Activist Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Daily News Article   —   Posted on October 8, 2010

(from the Sydney Morning Herald, smh.com.au) AFP/AP – Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, has been a vocal champion for greater democracy and human rights protection in China for decades.

The 54-year-old, who was previously jailed for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests, was sentenced in December to 11 more years in prison for subversion, a punishment that earned international condemnation.

Liu was arrested in late 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a widely circulated petition that called for political reform in the Communist-ruled nation.

The bold manifesto, which has been signed by more than 10,000 people since it went online, calls for the protection of basic human rights and the reform of China’s one-party [Communist] system.

“The government opposes (giving the Nobel Peace Prize to him) because they fear that it will draw more attention to Liu Xiaobo and to China’s situation (on democracy and human rights),” his wife Liu Xia told AFP earlier this week.

“If they didn’t fear this, then they would not have sentenced him to 11 years for writing an essay.”

Charter 08 specifically demands the abolition of subversion in China’s criminal code — the very crime for which Liu has been jailed.

“We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision,” the manifesto says.

“We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.”

Liu is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3, 1989 when the military quelled six weeks of protests in the heart of Beijing.

He was arrested immediately after the crackdown and released without charge in early 1991.

Liu was re-arrested and served three years in a labor camp from 1996-1999 for seeking the release of those jailed in the Tiananmen protests and for opposing the government’s verdict that they amounted to a counter-revolutionary rebellion.

The holder of a doctorate in Chinese literature, Liu was once a professor at Beijing Normal University, but was banned from teaching at state institutions over his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations.

As a leading member of the Independent China Pen Centre, a grouping of Chinese writers, Liu had remained in close contact with key intellectuals and had been largely free to attend meetings and writer group activities despite constant police surveillance.

Although Liu has been banned from publishing in China, many of his writings advocating greater democracy and respect for human rights have appeared in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese publications.

Some of these writings, which can be downloaded from the Internet inside China, served as evidence in his most recent trial, rights groups said.

Liu continues to command great respect from ordinary Chinese intellectuals, a fact that some say was central to the Communist Party’s decision to bring charges against him.

Since his arrest, Western governments, rights groups, scholars, and a coalition of Nobel Prize winners have called for his release. The United States and the European Union earlier this year also demanded his immediate release.

Liu has been honoured by Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and other rights groups. His essay The Noble Paradise of Power, the Hell for the Meek won the Hong Kong Human Rights News Prize in 2004.

Liu is married, but has no children. His wife has remained under police surveillance at the couple’s home in central Beijing since her husband was imprisoned. … [NOTE: President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.]

AFP/AP  (NOTE: The original headline of this article is Liu Xiaobo: Jailed Chinese Intellectual Wins Nobel Peace)

Copyright ©2010 AFP/AP (Agence France Presse/The Associated Press). All rights reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. The information contained in this AFP/AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of the AFP and AP. Visit smh.com.au/action/printArticle?id=1975023 for the original post.

Questions

1. a) Define subversion.
b) Why is Liu Xiaobo currently in prison?
c) What did Mr. Liu actually do that led to the charge against him?

2. What is Charter 08? Be specific.

3. How many times, for how long, and for what reasons has Liu Xiaobo been in prison?

4. What has the Chinese government banned Mr. Liu from doing because of his support for democracy?

5. Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights.” The Chinese government, which had warned the Nobel committee not to give him the prize, reacted to his award by saying in a statement “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law.” Awarding the peace prize to Mr. Liu ran “completely counter to the principle of the prize and is also a blasphemy to the peace prize.”

A Wall Street Journal article on Mr. Liu’s Nobel Prize states: “China’s human rights record had slipped lower on the international agenda in recent years, as the Obama administration and other Western governments focused on commercial relations with Beijing. In February 2009, soon after taking office, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a trip to China that Washington continued to press the Chinese government on human rights but that ‘our pressing on those issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate-change crisis and the security crisis.'”

What do you think the U.S. government can/should do to support democracy activists like Mr. Liu? Explain your answer.


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.

Background

ABOUT THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE:

According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The USA is the country that has produced most winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, twenty individual Laureates in all from 1901 to 2007, followed by France (9) and Great Britain (7).

The great Indian advocate of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The dictators Benito Mussolini (1935), Adolf Hitler (1939) and Joseph Stalin (1945, 1948) were all nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

CHARTER 08: (from wikipedia)

Charter 08 is a manifesto initially signed by over 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists to promote political reform and democratization in the People’s Republic of China.  It was published on December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopting name and style from the anti-Soviet Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Czechoslovakia.  Since its release, more than 8,100 people inside and outside of China have signed the charter.

Many of the original signatories were prominent citizens inside and outside the government, including lawyers; a Tibetan blogger, Woeser; and Bao Tong, a former senior Communist Party official, who all faced a risk of arrest and jail.  The Charter calls for 19 changes to improve human rights in China, including an independent legal system, freedom of association and the elimination of one-party rule. “All kinds of social conflicts have constantly accumulated and feelings of discontent have risen consistently,” it reads. “The current system has become backward to the point that change cannot be avoided.” China remains the only large world power to still retain an authoritarian system that so infringes on human rights, it states. “This situation must change! Political democratic reforms cannot be delayed any longer!”

Specific demands are:

1. Amending the Constitution.
2. Separation of powers.
3. Legislative democracy.
4. An independent judiciary.
5. Public control of public servants.
6. Guarantee of human rights.
7. Election of public officials.
8. Rural-urban equality.
9. Freedom of association.
10. Freedom of assembly.
11. Freedom of expression.
12. Freedom of religion.
13. Civic education.
14. Protection of private property.
15. Financial and tax reform.
16. Social security.
17. Protection of the environment.
18. A federated republic.
19. Truth in reconciliation.

The opening paragraph of the charter states:

“This year is the 100th year of China’s Constitution, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Democracy Wall, and the 10th year since China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. After experiencing a prolonged period of human rights disasters and a tortuous struggle and resistance, the awakening Chinese citizens are increasingly and more clearly recognizing that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal common values shared by all humankind, and that democracy, a republic, and constitutionalism constitute the basic structural framework of modern governance. A “modernization” bereft of these universal values and this basic political framework is a disastrous process that deprives humans of their rights, corrodes human nature, and destroys human dignity. Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a “modernization” under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided.

Resources

Read about Charter 08, written by Liu Xiaobo, at charter08.eu.

Read about the Nobel Peace Prize at the website at nobelpeaceprize.org.

Read “How are Nobel Laureates Selected?” at nobelpeaceprize.org/en_GB/nomination_committee/selection-process.

Read a commentary about the Chinese government’s opposition to Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize at wsj.com.

The Communist Chinese government not only persecutes democracy advocates, but also imprisons Christians.  Read about Christian persecution in China at loyola.edu/amnesty/chinapers.htm.