Chinese Dissident Wins Nobel Peace Prize

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Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee says he won "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

China's most prominent dissident is the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. He is Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December.

The award came despite the objections of the Chinese government, which warned the Nobel committee not to honor him.

We're going to get more on this story now from NPR's Louisa Lim. She's in Beijing.

Hi, Louisa.

LOUISA LIM: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what did this year's winner do to get the prize and to earn the unhappiness of the Chinese government?

LIM: Well, Liu Xiaobo is probably China's best-known dissident. He's called, sometimes, China's conscience. And when they gave him the award, the Nobel committee said he was being given the prize for his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.

He's actually in prison right now, as you said. He's serving an 11-year sentence for subversion. And this was given after he co-wrote a document called "Charter 08." It's a citizen's manifesto calling for Democratic reform that was really based on "Charter 77" that was written by Czech dissidents that eventually led to the Velvet Revolution.

But you should remember this is not his first sentence. Liu Xiaobo was given 20 months in prison after Tiananmen Square. And he played an important part at Tiananmen Square, actually, on the night of June the 4th. He was one of the key figures who persuaded the students to leave the square when the troops moved in.

So he spent time in prison then. And he also spent three years in a labor camp in the mid-'90s for writing essays critical of the government. So he has been a long-time rights activist in China.

INSKEEP: So, rather poignantly, we can speculate that he is not likely to be able to go pick up his award in person any time soon. What kind of reaction has there been from inside China?�

LIM: Well, of course, the dissident community - the rights activists - are overjoyed. And on the sort of micro blogs - the Chinese Twitter - are full of messages of congratulation. They feel that this will strengthen them and it will shine a light on Chinese human right's record.

The man who co-authored "Charter 08" with Liu Xiaobo, who's called Zhang Zhuhua, he said that this was a prize for all prisoners of conscience in China today. And others have pointed out that this will be a humiliation for the Chinese government.

And what it is likely to do is, probably to make Liu Xiaobo better-known in China. He's probably not that well-known among ordinary Chinese. So they may well hear, you know, at least the condemnation from the Chinese government, go online, look him up, find out more about "Charter 08" and get informed. So that's likely to be one byproduct.

But there are also some voices of discontent. There are some Chinese dissidents abroad, who actually wrote a letter to the Nobel Committee and they opposed his nomination. They felt that he was too conciliatory to the Chinese government and had deserted his principles. So there are mixed feelings.

INSKEEP: Even though he's imprisoned, they felt he was not tough enough?

LIM: Well, Chinese dissident community has long been fractured, and these are people who went into exile for their convictions. So there are a lot of differences of opinion there.

INSKEEP: Now, we have a sense here, Louisa Lim, that China's government is not going to be happy. You mentioned the condemnation of the Chinese government. What can China really do about this though?

LIM: Well, it'll be interesting to see what move they make. I mean they have issued a statement already, very speedily for the Chinese government, on their website. And it's a very strongly-worded statement. Theyve called the prize an obscenity. They said the Nobel Peace Committee had violated its principles by honoring what it called the criminal, Liu Xiaobo.

And in the past, they have attempted to put pressure on the Nobel Committee. Theyve warned that ties between China and Norway may be affected. So it'll be interesting to see what they can do next.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much NPR's Louisa Lim in Beijing.

Ties between China and Norway, of course, because thats where the prize is awarded. And the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is China's Liu Xiaobo. Thats L-I-U X-I-A-O-B-O.

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