Who is Liu Xiaobo?

I feel terrible. The first Chinese person to win a Nobel Peace Prize and I don’t even know who he is.

Luckily Elaine sent me this statement that Liu Xiaobo himself wrote last year before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. It’s deeply moving and revealing about not just Liu’s longstanding fight for human rights in China but also his dedication to his values and beliefs. If you were confused, like me, about who this new Nobel Laureate is then you should read this article titled “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement.”

Unfortunately the Chinese government has retaliated back at Norway and censored all media related to Liu, arguing that “the prize has been reduced to a political tool of Western interests.” Chances are, given that he is in prison and with all the censorship going around, Liu himself probably doesn’t even know that he just won the Nobel Peace Prize. Edit: according to a Hong Kong human rights organization, Liu’s wife visited him in prison yesterday and told him the news. But apparently shortly thereafter she was detained by the Chinese government.

I find it ironic that all of this is happening a couple of days after Premier Wen Jiabao came out touting China’s progress towards democracy and freedom: “I believe I and all the Chinese people have such conviction that China will make continuous progress and the people’s wishes and need for democracy and freedom are irresistible. I hope you will be able to gradually see the continuous progress of China.” This Nobel Peace Prize announcement gave China an opportunity to show a sign of progress, but instead the Chinese government reacted with hostility and more censorship, with the whole world watching too.

In 1989, the year of Tiananmen Square, the Dalai Llama won the Nobel Peace Prize and was also heavily rebuked by the Chinese government. 21 years later it seems like nothing much has changed. Will China seize this opportunity today to open up? Or will China continue to react with defensiveness and denial?

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