Category: Oslo

Nobel Upsets Chinese Diplomacy

A 54-year-old scholar and writer, Liu is a thorny reminder for the Chinese communist party of its tarnished and unredeemed past. In 1989, he was one of the protesters who staged a hunger strike in the ceremonial heart of Beijing, Tiananmen, attempting to avert a violent end to the peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. Liu is also a symbol of China’s still flickering democratic movement which, after years of suppression, continues to hold out hope that those universal values will prevail over the country’s authoritarian system. In 2008, just months after Beijing staged a dazzling Olympic Games, he was the leading figure among hundreds of liberal intellectuals who published an online manifesto calling for sweeping political reforms.  Released on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Charter 08’ delivered an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s efforts to assert its own values and for it to argue that Chinese people prefer affluence to freedom. China faced a choice, the manifesto argued, of maintaining its authoritarian system or “recognizing universal values, joining the mainstream of civilization and setting up a democracy.” Liu was detained immediately, and after being held in custody for a year, jailed for 11 years for “inciting subversion of state power.” Some 12,000 people have put their signatures to the petition since.  Beijing reacted with fury to the prize announcement. A statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website called the award a “desecration” of the Peace Prize and a choice that goes against the aims of the award. It called Liu a “criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law.” In the weeks before the award was known, Chinese diplomats had been issuing warnings about diplomatic trouble if the Prize went to Liu. In the day of the announcement, a statement warned the choice of Liu as winner will hurt China’s relations with Norway, the country where the Nobel committee is based.  Inside the country, there has been a total news blackout on the fact that the prestigious award has been given, for the first time, to a Chinese citizen. Liu’s choice is particularly hurtful to Beijing because China has a “Nobel Prize” syndrome, always sulking that its illustrious civilization and rising stature on the global scene have not been properly recognized. “Every year around this time there is so much speculation whether China will be finally recognized with a Nobel Prize,” said Zhao Hongli, a Beijing intellectual who took part in the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations and remembers Liu from those days. “The news will quickly filter through and I hope there will be a revival of the Tiananmen legacy.”  Beijing’s fury at Liu’s choice mirrors the time in 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when the Nobel Peace Prize went to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama won the Prize for his peaceful pursuit of genuine autonomy for Tibet, sparking accusations by China that the West supports what Beijing calls his “separatist cause.” He

Obama Receives Nobel Peace Prize

In a speech at the award ceremony in the Norwegian capital, Obama said violent conflict would not be eradicated “in our lifetimes”, and there would be times when countries would need to fight just wars. “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war,” he declared. While acknowledging the message of non-violence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Obama, the first sitting US president in 90 years to win the Nobel Peace Prize, said sometimes force was necessary. “I face the world as it is,” Obama said, insisting that he is obliged to protect and defend the US. “A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms,” Obama said. “To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history.” At a news conference earlier, Obama reaffirmed that US troops would begin transferring responsibility for Afghan security to local forces in July 2011 but said there would be no “precipitous drawdown.” Days ago, Obama announced that he was ordering 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan, disappointing those who had hoped that he would disengage America from an increasingly unpopular war. The Nobel peace committee has been criticized for awarding Obama the prize before he has any major accomplishments in international relations. But its chairman, Thorbjørn Jagland, praised Obama for doing more than anyone else this year to promote peace, citing his efforts to reach a new agreement on nuclear weapons with Russia. Acknowledging the controversy surrounding his prize, Obama said: “I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving. My task here is to continue on the path that I believe is not only important for America but important for lasting peace in the world.”  

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