Peacemaker Profile # 4 Liu Xiaobo
As announced yesterday, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2010 will be Liu Xiaobo, a human rights and free speech activist in China. So, he seemed to be an appropriate choice for the next entry in this random series of peacemaker profiles.
First of all, the Nobel Committee in Oslo (chosen by the Storting or Norwegian Parliament, per Alfred Nobel’s will) has a mixed record in choosing recipients of this most prestigious peace award. But, in general, when they have chosen peace and human rights activists, and avoided sitting politicians, their choices have held up well to the verdict of history. All the Nobel Peace Laureates have been controversial to somebody (FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was livid in 1964 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel & South Africa called the choice of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1984 “a weird insult from Norway”) , but the choice last year of U. S. Pres. Barack Obama more for his potential as peacemaker than for any deed yet done, probably shaped the decision this year to go back to human rights activists. (It didn’t help the controversy that Obama decided to “surge” in Afghanistan right after the announcement of the Nobel Committee.) China, who had long threatened economic and political consequences if the Nobel Committee ever chose a dissident human rights activist, was predictably furious at the choice of Liu Xiaobo. But making governments angry while drawing the world’s attention to areas of conflict and/or human rights abuses, is one of the traditional jobs of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Liu Xiaobo is a writer who took part in the 1989 Tienenmen Square nonviolent protests for democracy in China–protests that were brutally suppressed by the Chinese military in the Tienenment Square massacre. He was a major organizer of “Charter 08” a manifesto by human rights activists worldwide calling for free elections (with multiple parties), free speech and freedom of the press. China has imprisoned him for 11 years on a bogus charge of “attempting to subvert the government and the Communist Party.” (The Chinese Communist Party may only be “Communist” in name these days, but it remains totalitarian. The claim by Reaganites in the ’80s and by Bush I in the ’90s that capitalism would automatically bring democracy to China has proven to be the illusion that many of us named it at the time.)
Although it is unlikely that Xiaobo will be released to receive the Nobel in December (it is always awarded on 10 December, the day on which Alfred Nobel died), I hope his wife will be permitted by the Chinese govt. to travel to Oslo and receive the award. It is already having an effect. Rallies for Xiaopo’s release have happened in China and around the world. European leaders and Pres. Obama have called for Xiaopo’s release–a move that could lead to further deterioration of relations between China, Europe and the U.S.
Congrats to Liu Xiaopo. All of us who love justice and who know that peace is always built on justice–never on covering up injustice–are praying for you.