The Norwegian Nobel Committee today announced the award for the Nobel Peace Prize would go to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.
Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said Mr. Liu has been a strong spokesman for more than two decades for human rights in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989 and was a leading author of Charter 08, a manifesto demanding basic human rights and political reform in China that was published on Dec. 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mr. Jagland cited Liu’s sentencing in 2009 to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” as a key factor behind the committee’s decision this year, and the growing influence of China as the world’s second largest economy.
“China’s new status must entail increased responsibility,” Jagland said during the announcement ceremony. “China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights.”
China sees red
The prize was widely rumoured to be on its way to Liu this year following last year’s surprise victory for US President Barack Obama. However, there were concerns among some that the choice could prove provocative after a Chinese deputy foreign minister warned the Nobel committee this year not to issue the prize to a Chinese dissident.
Jagland dismissed the idea that it had felt pressured from any governments. “The committee is entirely independent of the [Norwegian] government and parliament,” he told reporters after his speech presentation. “We have the responsibility to speak when others are not willing or able to speak.
“If we all become silent because of our own interests – economic and other interests – and because we believe it could the worsen the situation for somebody, then we are lowering the standards which have been set and accepted by the world community since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted,” he told reporters.
The Nobel Committee has irked the Chinese before by giving the peace prize award to the Dalai Lama in 1989. The award resulted in diplomatic tensions between China and Norway and could trigger a similar reaction this time as well, according to Kjell Magne Bondevik, Norway’s foreign minister at the time and current director of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights.
“The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo is a correct and brave decision,” said Mr. Bondevik. “Brave because we must expect reactions from the Chinese authorities.”
It is yet unclear whether Liu or his wife will be able to attend the award ceremony in Oslo in December.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of 30 members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to Obama asking him to request the release of Mr. Liu and Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese human rights lawyer who disappeared in April 2010, when the president meets next month with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea.