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    « Inside The World Of IKEA | Main | Census Of Marine Life: A Decade Of Scientific International Research »
    Friday
    Oct082010

    Beijing Fails To Bully The Nobel Peace Committee

    Just a few hours ago in Oslo it was announced that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to Chinese dissident, human rights activist and political writer, Liu Xiaobo, who is at present serving an eleven year prison sentence. He has been charged by Beijing with 'subversion', for drafting the 'Chapter 08', an online petition for incorporation of basic human rights, including freedom of speech and a rule of law in the Chinese political system.

    Liu Xiaobo, Image Source: Wiki Commons

    Mr. Liu, a former professor of literature, has spent his entire lifetime fighting for human rights. He has been actively challenging PRC's oppressive regime for more than two decades now, going all the way back to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Over this period he has been imprisoned, and put under house arrest at various points. The most recent and the harshest prison sentence of eleven years came as recently as December 2009. 

    The Nobel Committee said, "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace.

    Such rights are a prerequisite for the "fraternity between nations" of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will. Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world's second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty.  Scope for political participation has also broadened.

    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.

    For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China.  He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power". Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights.

    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."

    Although the Nobel Peace Committee had received a record number of nominations (237) this year, Liu was the clear favorite to win the prize this year. In an unprecedented move leading betting firm, Paddy Power had in fact stopped taking new bets and already paid people off, earlier this week two days before the official announcement. Paddy Power said that they had never ever seen such strong betting support for one individual to bag this prize, so they took a 'calculated risk', and paid people off in advance. Not only was there a groundswell of support for Liu to win this prize from people all across the globe and all walks of life, but a number of former Nobel Laureates had recommended his name to the Committee as well. Former Czech president, Vaclav Havel has been vocal, public supporter of Liu's nomination. 

    The only people who have actively campaigned against this prize and are angered by it are the powers to be at Beijing. So disturbed was Beijing with the prospect of Liu winning this prize, that they have been warning and threatening the Norwegian committee for months, of trade retaliation between China and Norway, should Liu be honored with this prize. 

    BBC News reported on September 28th: "The head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, said on Monday that a senior Chinese official had warned him that awarding the peace prize to Liu Xiaobo would affect relations between Oslo and Beijing. China and Norway are now engaged in talks over a bilateral trade deal, which some say could serve as a blueprint for an agreement between China and the European Union. China was furious when the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square crackdown by Chinese authorities on protesters. The government tried to exert pressure on the committee last year when another dissident, Hu Jia, was nominated for the prize."

    In fact pressure from China was the only reason why many people, despite an unprecedented support for Liu, were skeptical of whether he will win this award. No one questioned his merits, but people were just not sure if the Committee would stand up to Beijing's bullying. It's absolutely heartening to know that the committee has stood up for the correct values and principles. It is a public humiliation for Beijing. 

    Prominent world leaders, including President Obama, have applauded Liu's win and have called for his release from prison, which only adds fuel to the fire, and infuriates PRC even more. As it rants and raves and throws a massive temper tantrum over Liu's award, PRC stands alone on the world stage, on the wrong side of history. It has no public support for it's agenda from the global community.

    Let this be a lesson to all autocracies that they cannot always bully their way in this world. Someone somewhere will have the courage to stand up to you. Not everyone in the world is going to politely ask you, 'how high', just because you say 'jump'. 

    ~ Gauri

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