A Chinese man named Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 8 October 2010. He was jailed for 11 years in December 2010 for writing a political manifesto called “Chapter 8” which calls for democracy in China (based upon Slovak Charter 77.) This document was published on the internet to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was signed by thousands of his supporters. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize he dedicated it to the Tianamen Martyrs.
Liu Xiaobo is a former professor at Bejing Normal University and an advocate of peaceful, gradual political change, rather than violent confrontation (Irish Times 9/10/2010). He has been a thorn in the side of the Government since 1989 when he went on hunger strike in support of the student pro-democracy supporters in Tianamen Square (more than 2,000 people are thought to have been killed on 4 June 1989). He was jailed for 20 months at around that time. He was jailed again in 1996 for co-writing a letter that demanded the impeachment of the country’s President and sent to a labour camp for 3 years where he met his wife.
China was furious with the awardin of the Nobel Peace Prize, denouncing Liu Xiaobo as a criminal. The Minister of Foreign Affairs denounced the award, saying “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal sentenced by the judicial administration in China because he broke the law and his actions are the absolute opposite of what the Nobel Peace Prize is about.”
The award puts the spotlight on China at a time when it is starting to play a leading role on the global stage as a result of fits growing economic might. The US Attorney General, Eric Holden met China’s top security leaders on Wednesday as he began an official visit a day after calling for Bejing to release Liu Xiaobo. The Norwegian Government has also called for his release and the easing of restrictions on his wife.
Liu’s wife Liu Xia has been held under house arrest at her Bejing apartment. She is not allowed to use her mobile phone and prevented from talking to reporters. She has committed no crime. Xiaobo’s supporters have also been harassed and numerous backers have disappeared. In particular, Ding Ziln, the leaders of a group of relatives of victims of Tianamen Square has also gone missing.
Chapter 8 is the closest thing to a pro-democracy movement that China has seen for years. It has called for a constitution guaranteeing human rights, the open election of public officials and freedom of religion and expression.
I quote a comment from John Huetteman on a website run by an American Human Rights Organisation called “Freedom Now”…
“China is forever evolving. China will evolve a democracy. Liu Xiaobo with regard to the democracy movement, workers striking for higher pay, the first AIDS discrimination case being heard in a Chinese Court. They are small steps but they will shape China’s Government little by little.”