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"For his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China"
October 8, 2010 2:33 AM   Subscribe

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize goes to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Beijing had previously warned the Nobel committee not to honour Liu. A BBC biography of Liu from last year: "Now his name is unknown. But one day, even if he's not regarded as a hero, he'll be thought of as a very good citizen - a model example."
posted by WPW (63 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Taiwan better get ready for some Chinese naval vessels to start straying perilously close to to their border...
posted by PenDevil at 2:51 AM on October 8, 2010


I sense a pattern here. My prediction for the next two prizes:
2011: Hu Jintao
2012: Noam Chomsky
posted by klue at 3:14 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yay, a much better choice than last year's increasingly hypocritical recipient.
posted by smoke at 3:25 AM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Didn't China also "get their feelings hurt" during a Bjork concert? Cue Liz Lemon eyeroll in China's general direction.
posted by cruelshoes at 3:37 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


That Nobel Committee, they just are not very good listeners Beijing.
posted by caddis at 3:49 AM on October 8, 2010


Yeah, I'm shocked that the Nobel Committee was not swayed by threats from an authoritarian regime that has no leverage against it.
posted by leotrotsky at 3:57 AM on October 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


From the BBC story: A foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing that Liu Xiaobo was serving a jail term because he had violated Chinese law.
Awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize would send the wrong message to the world, the spokeswoman said. It would run contrary to the aims of its founder to promote peace between peoples, and to promote international friendship and disarmament, she added.


"Come on now, the Nobel prize is about peace - and if you give it to this guy we'll get really pissed off and that's hardly peaceful, is it? QED."
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:23 AM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Living in Shanghai, the most annoying and humorous aspect of this is the frequency of blackouts of the BBC. It's almost a game to see how far into a segment about the prize a reporter will make it before the screen goes blank.
posted by michswiss at 4:25 AM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


I know China has never been particularly subtle about blocking news that it doesn't like, but isn't skipping the announcement of the Peace Prize winner on Chinese news channels going to cause rampant speculation about who won it and what they did to deserve being blacked out?
posted by miyabo at 4:40 AM on October 8, 2010


Liu Xiaobo in his own (translated) words, Chinese original here.

"But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my “June Second hunger strike declaration"— I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities...

For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love."
posted by so much modern time at 4:50 AM on October 8, 2010 [41 favorites]


I sense a pattern here. My prediction for the next two prizes:
2011: Hu Jintao
2012: Noam Chomsky
posted by klue at 3:14 AM on 10/8


Hu was democratically elected and Chomsky is in prison? I didn't know that?
posted by Skeptic at 5:05 AM on October 8, 2010


A foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing that Liu Xiaobo was serving a jail term because he had violated Chinese law.

Awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize would send the wrong message to the world, the spokeswoman said.

It would run contrary to the aims of its founder to promote peace between peoples, and to promote international friendship and disarmament, she added.


This depends of course on whether the Nobel Committee awarded Mr. Liu the prize for opposing the Chinese regime or for the way in which he opposes it.
posted by three blind mice at 5:44 AM on October 8, 2010


Good on them. I hope this doesn't negatively impact Mr. Liu, as he's still imprisoned. Historically, receiving the award has made you "unkillable", but not unjailable.
posted by flippant at 5:46 AM on October 8, 2010


A foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing that Liu Xiaobo was serving a jail term because he had violated Chinese law...Awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize would send the wrong message to the world, the spokeswoman said.
Ah, that clarifies things. Because a Nobel Peace Prize would never go to someone who had violated the law in their country of residence.
posted by variella at 5:50 AM on October 8, 2010


I don't get it. I thought China LIKES revolutionaries?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:58 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading his potted biography, what's amazing about the guy is not just his stance on non-violence but that he left the US to protest for democracy in China.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:10 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


A worthy winner.

But it's still not Pete Seeger.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:12 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. I thought China LIKES revolutionaries?

If and only if they support The Revolution as brought to you by The Party.
posted by organic at 6:25 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


At some point nations will start saying "no" to China and then we'll see what the Chinese government is really made of.

But until then, it'll be "yes, yes, yes...now about that billion-person market of yours..." all the way down.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2010


Communism should get major props for it's ability to consistently turn out Nobel Peace Prize recipients.
posted by vivelame at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


On the Japanese news tonight, they ran a story how the Chinese TV stations blanked out any news reports of this. TV screens simply went blank. You stay classy, China.
posted by zardoz at 6:55 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


More from so much modern time's link, from Liu to his wife, Liu Xia:

"Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes."

Beautiful.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:16 AM on October 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


China is like that one ugly brutal family in everybody's neighborhood who absolutely don't care if all the neighbors see them beat their children with belts and rubber hoses, cause what is anybody gonna do, stop them? Yeah, come over here and I'll give YOU a little...

You have to hope those old bastards running the place die soon and in great pain. I'm not nearly as nice as Liu Xiaobo.
posted by umberto at 7:22 AM on October 8, 2010


Beijing had previously warned the Nobel committee not to honour Liu.

That seems like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
posted by grouse at 7:23 AM on October 8, 2010


That seems like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

I think it's a x3 bonus multiplier on the Peace Prize score-o-matic.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:59 AM on October 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


An unsourced but amusing statement on Wikipedia:
The state-run Xinhua News Agency later carried a report saying that awarding Liu Xiaobo the prize “defiles” (褻瀆) Alfred Nobel's purpose of creating this prize and "may harm China-Norway relations".

Despite being blocked to discuss the news in forums based in the Mainland China, the term defile has stirred up an internet meme in China and has been used to satirize the government's response.
posted by shii at 8:07 AM on October 8, 2010


The only thing I can think of when I hear "Chinese-Norway relations" is the "Sword and the Dragon" episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

That's a hell of a walk, Tukars.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:12 AM on October 8, 2010


From the Guardian: "It is highly unlikely that the 54-year-old author and former academic knows he has won. His lawyer told him his name had been put forward, but it is thought he knows little about the nomination because he is not permitted to talk about current affairs with visitors to his prison in Jinzhou, Liaoning province. He is allowed to see his relatives for an hour each month. His wife, Liu Xia, had said she believed he was unlikely to win the prize, but that she thought the attention he gained had won him better conditions in prison."
posted by homunculus at 8:34 AM on October 8, 2010




"China-Norway" trade relations are a red herring.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:17 AM on October 8, 2010 [15 favorites]


I vote for Michael Jackson
posted by GrooveJedi at 9:51 AM on October 8, 2010


I don't know if Liu Xiaobo is the most deserving winner or not but I'm convinced that way the way in which the winners of the Nobel Peace Price are chosen should be held up to more scrutiny. I also doubt that the Nobel Peace Price would have the standing it has if it didn't share a common name with the four other prices awarded according to Nobel's will.

Part from the name, the prices have very little in common, especially when in comes to how the winners are chosen. The other prices, except the Nobel Price of Literature, are awarded by politically independent committees created by scientific organizations. In stark contrast, the winner of The Peace Price is chosen by five retired Norwegian politicians, where the only safe guard against that the decision would be politicized is that the five should reflect the political makeup as the Norwegian parliament I think it's reasonable that the status of the prices should reflect the vetting procedure that goes in to choosing the winners. With that line of thinking The Peace Price should be regarded as little more impressive than a cup stating "world's greatest dad"
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 10:47 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Peace is politics.
posted by polymodus at 11:01 AM on October 8, 2010


I wonder if he knows he won.
posted by West of House at 11:24 AM on October 8, 2010


I don't know if Liu Xiaobo is the most deserving winner or not but I'm convinced that way the way in which the winners of the Nobel Peace Price are chosen should be held up to more scrutiny. I also doubt that the Nobel Peace Price would have the standing it has if it didn't share a common name with the four other prices awarded according to Nobel's will.

Part from the name, the prices have very little in common, especially when in comes to how the winners are chosen. The other prices, except the Nobel Price of Literature, are awarded by politically independent committees created by scientific organizations. In stark contrast, the winner of The Peace Price is chosen by five retired Norwegian politicians, where the only safe guard against that the decision would be politicized is that the five should reflect the political makeup as the Norwegian parliament I think it's reasonable that the status of the prices should reflect the vetting procedure that goes in to choosing the winners. With that line of thinking The Peace Price should be regarded as little more impressive than a cup stating "world's greatest dad"


The other problem is that it's pragmatically not very helpful to promote dissident-based politics. With the possible exception of Nelson Mandela--and even there it's possible to doubt his real influence--dissidents make little or no real contribution to political change. None of the Soviet dissidents had any influence on the fall of the Soviet Union or the reconstruction of the Russian government afterwards. The Eastern European dissidents managed to hijack the Western discourse about the collapse of communism in their countries, but there, too, the real underlying cause (I'm following the argument of Kotkin's Uncivil Society here) was the disinvestment of elites from a system that was clearly unsustainable and offered them increasingly little for their support. Certainly none of the dissidents in contemporary Russia have succeeded in doing anything other than drawing attention to themselves (and getting themselves killed or imprisoned). I'm only talking about this region because that's what I'm familiar with, but it doesn't seem like China or Burma are any different.

Dissident-based politics creates a very rosy Hollywood view of the world, in which the lone underdog hero triumphs over the evil dictator because of his virtue and kindness. History doesn't work that way. If you're at all interested in reducing the power of authoritarian regimes, you should focus on interests and internal economic dynamics (which means, yes, China as most favored nation and so on). Supporting dissidents polarizes the situation in a way that is unhelpful, though, of course, morally satisfying.
posted by nasreddin at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's reasonable that the status of the prices should reflect the vetting procedure that goes in to choosing the winners.

The Nobel Peace Prize is by definition political. Having it handed down by a committee would make controversial choices like this year impossible. It would make it as difficult to choose a candidate that is not liked by one of the major powers that be as having a controversial resolution passed by the UN security council.

Also, the list of embarrassing omissions is quite short. Only Mahatma Gandhi, really.
posted by sour cream at 11:59 AM on October 8, 2010


interesting paragraph about Gandhi:

The omission of Gandhi has been particularly widely discussed, including in public statements by various members of the Nobel Committee.[29][30] The Committee has confirmed that Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, a few days before his death in January 1948.[31] The omission has been publicly regretted by later members of the Nobel Committee.[29] In 1948, the year of Gandhi's death, the Nobel Committee declined to award a prize on the ground that "there was no suitable living candidate" that year.

In a sense he did win, or came as close as you can come to winning when you are dead.

I don't know if this has been mentioned but Liu Xiaobo is the first winner to have won while in jail, past winners have been under house arrest before but not actually imprisoned. It seems doubtful he will be able to claim his award in person.

as for dissidents never making a positive difference MLK, Malcolm X, Gandhi all come to mind as well as the rise of democracy way back when in colonial America... there are actually too many examples the more I consider it, the main point being people often need leaders who are inspirational to rally them to act on impulses they would otherwise ignore.

Linked below are some poems written by Liu Xiaobo

http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/4014/prmID/1502
posted by Shit Parade at 12:26 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


nasreddin.

I am willing to entertain the idea but what about Solidarity in Poland? (or Ghandi or King?)
posted by PinkMoose at 12:33 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


as for dissidents never making a positive difference MLK, Malcolm X, Gandhi all come to mind as well as the rise of democracy way back when in colonial America... there are actually too many examples the more I consider it, the main point being people often need leaders who are inspirational to rally them to act on impulses they would otherwise ignore.


Malcolm X didn't make any difference that I know of (which doesn't mean he was a bad guy). Martin Luther King Jr. was not a dissident in the traditional sense--yes, he was jailed briefly, but he was a public figure of enormous stature and was accorded a massive and relatively unrestricted platform for his views, which isn't the case for dissidents in the authoritarian regimes I was talking about. The same goes for Gandhi. The colonial Americans are an even worse example, since in the American context it was the Loyalists who were most in danger of legal retribution.

I'm talking about a very specific kind of dissident, along the lines of Sakharov and Havel and yes, Liu Xiaobo. I don't mean "every liberal hero ever."
posted by nasreddin at 12:35 PM on October 8, 2010


what about Solidarity in Poland?

Solidarity only overthrew communism in Poland because the communist elites themselves were unwilling or unable to do anything to keep them out of the government. They didn't have to let Solidarity candidates run for office, or let them get an electoral majority, or acknowledge the results and set up a coalition government, or effectively give all real power into their hands--all of which is basically Soviet-Style Communism 101, "Never Let Power Get Out of the Hands of the Party." Solidarity itself didn't know what to do once power was given to it--they were forced to adjust once it became clear that the old guard had no intention of continuing to run the country. I would also say that Solidarity's lack of political success after the fall of communism suggests that they weren't the key actor here.
posted by nasreddin at 12:41 PM on October 8, 2010


The other thing re Gandhi is that his success in freeing India was in large part dependent on the armed resistance of other Indian nationalists, which convinced the British that the country couldn't be held and gave Gandhi the ability to retain the moral high ground.
posted by nasreddin at 12:45 PM on October 8, 2010


If you're at all interested in reducing the power of authoritarian regimes, you should focus on interests and internal economic dynamics

Dissidents don't implement change, they provide motivation for change. The practical purpose of recognizing key thinkers, writers, and speakers is to raise awareness. Because if you don't understand the reasons for doing something, what is the point of doing it at all?

And viewed from the inside, it is not so much moral satisfaction (which is immoral) as a simple, much-needed lift in morale.
posted by polymodus at 12:57 PM on October 8, 2010


Dissidents don't implement change, they provide motivation for change. The practical purpose of recognizing key thinkers, writers, and speakers is to raise awareness. Because if you don't understand the reasons for doing something, what is the point of doing it at all?

Raise awareness among whom? People who go to "Free Tibet" rallies? Amnesty International? No one in power in authoritarian regimes gives a flying fuck about any of that, and people who live in them are already fully aware of what their problems are.
posted by nasreddin at 1:02 PM on October 8, 2010


dissident

Is your particular dissident only those which align with your thesis because, if so, then your locution isn't very interesting beyond being another example of circular reasoning.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:11 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one in power in authoritarian regimes gives a flying fuck about any of that

Common mistake. Authoritarian regimes do care about public opinion. In a perverse way, they care even more than democratic governments. The worse that can happen to a democratic ruler is to lose an election. A dictator, on the other hand, risks his head.
Indeed, the official Chinese reaction to the Nobel announcement, like its previous attitude towards the Dalai Lama, is clear proof that they do care very much indeed.
posted by Skeptic at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is your particular dissident only those which align with your thesis because, if so, then your locution isn't very interesting beyond being another example of circular reasoning.

You are aware that words have histories, connotations, and contexts, right?
posted by nasreddin at 1:25 PM on October 8, 2010


Authoritarian regimes do care about public opinion.

Not Western public opinion.

Indeed, the official Chinese reaction to the Nobel announcement, like its previous attitude towards the Dalai Lama, is clear proof that they do care very much indeed.

I don't think that's true. I mean, the guy is directly challenging their authority. You don't get to be an authoritarian country if you don't at least complain about that kind of thing. It doesn't say anything either way about the degree of threat they expect from his direction.
posted by nasreddin at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2010


You are aware that words have histories, connotations, and contexts, right?

sure do, that is why Lenin and Stalin are both to be considered dissidents.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2010


sure do, that is why Lenin and Stalin are both to be considered dissidents.

Could you please clarify this statement? I honestly have no idea what it's supposed to mean.
posted by nasreddin at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2010


bolshevik revolution

I am not sure how much more successful a dissident can be beyond inciting a revolution and coming to power.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2010


Raise awareness among whom? People who go to "Free Tibet" rallies? Amnesty International? No one in power in authoritarian regimes gives a flying fuck about any of that, and people who live in them are already fully aware of what their problems are.

Awareness for regular people. For example, people like me, an ethnic minority living in America who does not consider these issues on a day-to-day basis, for practical reasons. Most people aren't "fully aware"—or they else they would be working to change it.

Information is alive. Everyone is prone to failing to see the big picture; we're prone to seeing the wrong picture; and most of all we're prone to losing the big picture a few days after we're managed to grasp it. We need affirmation, and recognition and designation is one way of doing that. I'm not denying that sometimes a few may go to excess or are obnoxious about it. But people such as protesters, philosophers, and activitists have their sociological role to play, that should not be so casually dismissed.

Dissidents help by articulating reasons for change. Because without reason, society has no direction.
posted by polymodus at 2:33 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one in power in authoritarian regimes gives a flying fuck about any of that

Appeal to motive fallacy.
posted by polymodus at 2:41 PM on October 8, 2010




"By then, China had severed high level contacts, banned rare earth exports to Japan and was being particularly shrill and annoying."

The Times of India on China's "annus horribilus"
posted by longsleeves at 4:18 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


sure do, that is why Lenin and Stalin are both to be considered dissidents.

Could you please clarify this statement? I honestly have no idea what it's supposed to mean.


It's really not that much of a stretch to consider Lenin a "dissident" against an authoritarian regime. The czarist regime was certainly authoritarian, and Lenin was imprisoned and exiled for, essentially, labor organizing. He spent most of his time in exile writing and organizing.

You could consider Khomeini a kind of classic dissident, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:36 PM on October 8, 2010


Authoritarian regimes do care about public opinion.

Not Western public opinion.


Nasreddin, you're really on a hiding to nothing here. Your initial thesis was interesting and provocative but you're quickly running out of true scotsmen, and if you don't think china, ffs doesn't care about public opinion - western or otherwise - I think you're really demonstrating a pretty profound ignorance about China and the ccp.

And people who live in them are already fully aware of what their problems are.

Statements like this make me think you do have an ignorance about China. It's likely that far more people in the west are aware of the CCP's manifold problems than the millions living in China with its censored media; where domestic disturbance is hushed up whether it's from rural workers or independence agitators in Xin Jiang; economies and other numbers are lied about; and environmental disasters are proclaimed raging successes.

Now, I'm not saying that any dissident - let alone this one - could solve those issues, and certainly not that the act of dissent is inherently peace-making. But you're gonna have to make a much better case than that - including putting forward some alternative recipients - before you get a decent argument.
posted by smoke at 5:59 PM on October 8, 2010




R. Mutt: What the CCP cares about first and foremost is their grip on power. And Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08's direct challenge to the CCP, demanding immediate democratic transformation, is futile and idiotic. Antagonizing the CCP to such extremes just ends with you in jail and your ideas censored to oblivion. As nasreddin has already pointed out, Liu Xiaobo's efforts do absolutely nothing for the domestic situation, and does nothing to promote domestic democracy.

The nobel peace prize is a joke of an award. The other Nobel prizes honor achievement; This one is consistently wasted on a political statement.
posted by yifes at 10:45 PM on October 11, 2010


And Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08's direct challenge to the CCP, demanding immediate democratic transformation, is futile and idiotic

Not to mention that in authoritarian countries, this kind of thing tends to discredit the intra-party reform bloc.
posted by nasreddin at 11:03 PM on October 11, 2010


The other thing, not that it justifies in the slightest the way he's been treated of course, is that all my previous contact with Liu's political opinions have been deeply unimpressive. He famously said to an interviewer in Hong Kong back in the '80s that mainland China would need 300 years of colonialism as Hong Kong had needed a century of British rule to achieve the kind of modernity Liu likes. He stood by the words recently when asked. He was supporting the Iraq war as late as 2006, from what I can only charitably take to be a naive outsider's belief in the rhetoric of the imposition of democracy that was used to justify the invasion. He appears to have a blind belief in the magic of market reform that little squares with the experience of many in China outside of his kind of urban elite background. So while agreeing with nasreddin et al above about the wrong-headedness of this approach, even if we are wrong, of all the many people wrongly incarcerated for their beliefs or words in China, Liu is a strange choice for a peace prize and were his views better known in China, would be representative of few people other than himself (I do realise he's often being deliberately provocative, as should be his right, but all the same). My sense is that there was some lobbying by Norwegian sinologists, as I understand Liu has been a regular visitor to the country on academic exchange programmes and the like for many years now.
posted by Abiezer at 11:39 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


My Old Friend Liu Xiaobo
posted by homunculus at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2010






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