China Slams Nobel Peace Prize For Dissident
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.
China is calling today's Nobel Peace Prize a, quote, "obscenity." It was awarded to Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo. He's currently in prison. The Nobel Committee cited his decades of nonviolent struggle for human rights.
NPR's Rob Gifford reports from Beijing.
ROB GIFFORD: It's not clear whether 54-year-old Liu Xiaobo knows yet, in his prison cell 300 miles from Beijing, that he has won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. What is clear though is that China's political system is back in the spotlight.
In making the announcement in Oslo today, the head of the Nobel Committee was careful to praise China for its role in lifting millions of Chinese people out of poverty. But he said that with its newfound power also came responsibility, and he criticized China's curtailment of basic freedoms.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom of the University of California at Irvine says Liu Xiaobo himself is a complex figure.
Professor JEFF WASSERSTROM (History, University of California, Irvine): What radicalized him and got him involved in politics was the protests of 1989, which he was a supporter of but also a critic of the more extremist side of the student activists.
He's best thought of, I think, as a gadfly intellectual, who's continually calling attention to the flaws of the current system of government, but one who's tended to want to work within the system in a moderate and somewhat often conciliatory way.
GIFFORD: In the fragmented world of Chinese dissidents, Liu has sometimes been looked down upon as being too conciliatory. But he has not led an easy life. He was jailed after Tiananmen, and then detained repeatedly throughout the 1990s, when other dissidents had been silenced or had fled abroad.
Most recently we was detained in 2008 for helping to write a document called Charter 08, which called for the Chinese Communist Party to guarantee civil liberties, judicial independence and political reform. He was sentenced last year to 11 years in jail. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu expressed the government's anger at the award.
Ms. JIANG YOU (Spokeswoman, Chinese Foreign Ministry): (Through translator) The man you mentioned was sentenced by China's judicial system because he broke Chinese law. His behavior goes against the aims of the Nobel Prize Committee.
GIFFORD: Beijing reacted with similar fury when the Tibetan leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. With Liu Xiaobo one of the favorites to win the prize this year, a senior Beijing official had actually warned the Norwegian government and the Nobel Committee that relations could be damaged if Liu were awarded the prize. But the Nobel Committee went ahead anyway.
This evening in China, Google searches for Liu's name were blocked and posts in Chinese language Internet chat rooms were removed by censors. But, Liu's fellow dissident Ai Weiwei praised the bravery of the Nobel Committee.
Mr. AI WEIWEI: (Through translator) This is an honor to an ordinary citizen, and also an honor to those who strive to make changes in China. It is also a humiliation to China's ruling party. Even after 60 years of being in power, they still refuse to provide citizens with the freedom to vote, freedom of association and freedom of speech.
GIFFORD: Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, was escorted from her Beijing apartment by police this evening, because she said they did not want her talking to the news media. On the streets of Beijing, few people had heard the news, and many when asked did not even know the name of Liu Xiaobo.
Rob Gifford, NPR News, Beijing.