President Obama: Call your own Nobel summit, and send China a message
Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiabao will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this Friday in absentia. As a Nobel laureate himself, President Obama must take a clear stand on China's human rights abuses. On Friday, he should host a 'freedom summit' with other Nobel laureates.
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By denying the rights of its own 1.5 billion people and collaborating with oppressive regimes around the world (starting with North Korea), China has made itself the global anti-human rights champion.Skip to next paragraph
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In his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit in September, the president voiced traditional American rhetoric on democracy and human rights, but failed to mention China. The Liu peace prize afforded him a new opportunity to correct that glaring omission, and he did so by praising the award and calling on Beijing “to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible.”
Don't accept Beijing's lame argument
Now, the president should sustain that new beginning by returning to the subject of China’s democracy and human rights problems as often, and as publicly, as President Reagan did with the Soviet Union, inspiring the detained Mr. Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky, and millions of others to persevere in their long struggles for freedom.
No world leader’s voice on this issue would be more impactful than the American president’s. And no leader is better positioned to speak out authoritatively than Nobel laureate Obama. He possesses the same bully pulpit past presidents enjoyed, but with the added international imprimatur of Liu’s and his own Nobel Prizes.
He should tell China the global community can no longer accept Beijing’s lame argument that a fourth of the world’s population is consigned to a permanent fate of “democracy with Chinese characteristics.” The Chinese people deserve Chinese democracy with democratic characteristics.
Liu has said that “no force can block the human desire for freedom.” On accepting his own prize, Obama said “Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.”
The Nobel Committee, and Nancy Pelosi, have shown him the way. A legacy awaits.
Joseph A. Bosco served in the office of the secretary of defense as China country desk officer and previously taught graduate seminars on China-US relations at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is now a national security consultant.