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Updated: October 8, 2010 23:50 IST

Peace Nobel for Chinese activist

Ananth Krishnan
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This undated image provided by Voice of America shows Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Friday, Oct. 8, 2010. Photo: AP
This undated image provided by Voice of America shows Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Friday, Oct. 8, 2010. Photo: AP

Jailed Chinese political activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, for his efforts over two decades, to promote democratic rights in China.

Jailed Chinese political activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a decision the Chinese government has criticised as "a blasphemy".

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the award went to Mr. Liu, who is in prison for his calls for political reform, “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

‘Prerequisite for the fraternity’

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace,” the committee said in a statement. “Such rights are a prerequisite for the fraternity between nations of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry hit out at the decision, warning that the award would adversely effect ties between China and Norway. “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” it said in a statement, adding that the award ran “completely counter to the principle of the [Nobel Peace] prize".

A supporter of democracy

Mr. Liu (54), a political activist, is the author of a controversial document, Charter 08, which called for “the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country” and an end to one-party rule.

Mr. Liu was also a student leader during the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989. Over the past two decades, he has spent several years in jail and in re-education camps. He was released in 1999, but sentenced again, in December last year, to 11 years in prison for "subverting State power" by releasing Charter 08.

Nobel broadcast blocked in China

While his efforts have brought him international attention, Mr. Liu is little known in China, rarely finding mention in the State media. The award, however, is certain to bring him more recognition here, with hundreds of bloggers and many websites reporting the news on Friday.

China has a vibrant online community, with more than 420 million Internet users.

The live broadcast of the announcement on Friday was blocked in China, with international news channels, including BBC and CNN, being temporarily blacked out. Newspapers and some news websites in China were told to not report the announcement, journalists at several news organisations, who did not want to be named, told The Hindu.

"In the long-term, the award is good news for China’s democratisation," Qiao Mu, an expert on the Chinese media and a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told The Hindu. "But in the short-term, the Chinese government may respond negatively, by blocking all information about the award."

Activists hail announcement

Chinese activists welcomed the announcement. "It is an encouragement for all those who are pushing for change and greater rights for citizens in China," Ma Yalian, a well-known land rights activist, told The Hindu.

Friday’s statement from the Norwegian Nobel Committee called on China to guarantee freedom of expression and human rights. While China had achieved economic advances without equal in history, and also broadened political participation, its "new status must entail increased responsibility", the statement said.

"Article 35 of China's constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration"," it added. "In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens."

Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, who lives in Beijing, left her Beijing apartment on Friday evening, which was under police supervision, to inform Mr. Liu at the prison. Whether or not she was allowed to convey the news remained unclear.

She said the prize was not only for her husband, but “for everyone working for human rights and justice in China.” She said recently she did not expect her husband to receive the prize. “I can always predict when bad things are about to happen,” she told the Associated Press. "But I can never totally believe that good things can become a reality.”

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