Sunday, December 12, 2010

Communist Party's nonsense over Liu only makes his award more valid

Demonised by the government and media of his own country but praised by just about every commentator around the world, Liu Xiaobo, 54, was the centre of the world's attention from Friday when the Nobel Peace committee awarded him the prestigious peace prize.

But the Chinese dissident and intellectual was unable to get to Oslo for the ceremony to present him with the prestigious award. He was sitting in a jail cell nearly halfway across the globe. Neither were his family members permitted to leave China to receive the award on his behalf.

China shot itself in the foot again with its campaign to denounce the event. Denying Liu permission to leave China to take part in the ceremony made his campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the people of China even more visible and righteous.
"Liu has only exercised his civil rights. He has not done anything wrong. He must be released," Nobel committee chairman Torbjorn Jagland said to sustained applause and a standing ovation from the audience of more than 1,000 dignitaries, diplomats and officials.

In the days leading up to the ceremony, Beijing had lashed out at the Nobel committee, calling them names and accusing the selection committee of interfering in its domestic affairs. Earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu denounced the award's "Cold War-like" pressure tactics and stated, "We will not change because of interference by a few clowns."

On Friday, an oversized portrait of the man in the spotlight was hung on the Oslo stage. In an event where the honouree or a close relative would normally speak, Liu's statement, his final words before being sentenced to 11 years in jail for political incitement, was read aloud by somebody else. Both the CNN and BBC television channels went blank in Beijing to prevent coverage of the historic event as it began.

Ceremony broadcasts were blocked on television and the Internet inside China. But in this day and age of globalisation, Beijing is only fooling itself if they think they can just switch off a man like Liu.

Since the announcement of the prize, Chinese police have maintained a heavy presence outside the home of Liu's wife, Liu Xia, whose telephone and Internet access have been cut off.

The only public screening of the event held on Chinese territory, observed by several hundred people, was the live broadcast of the Nobel ceremony on a screen in a central Hong Kong park. An online campaign in China to honour the man has been met with stiff resistance.

"I have once again been shoved into the dock by the enemy mentality of the regime," Liu said in December last year. "But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by my convictions. ... I have no enemies, and no hatred."

Hatred, Liu continued, "can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy."

This year's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was the first time the award was not presented to either a laureate or a close family member since 1936, when Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist jailed by the Nazi regime, was honoured.

Representatives from at least 15 countries decided to stay away from the ceremony after China warned them of risking diplomatic consequences.

US President Barack Obama, who was awarded this prize one year ago, said that Liu "is far more deserving of this award than I was."

"I regret that Mr Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year," Obama said, adding, "The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible."

Governments around the world, especially those who boycotted the ceremony, need to do some serious soul-searching. In short, they need to get a gut check. China can huff and puff all it wants about some far-fetched conspiracy to destroy its great nation. But it's pretty clear as to which side history will be on.

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