Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
A few days ago, the New York Times ran an editorial written by three of the original drafters of Charter 77, a document that helped topple the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia (remember when that was a place?). They suggested that Liu Xiaobo, the recently-imprisoned author of China’s Charter 08, should receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite Liu’s imprisonment, his ideas cannot be shackled. Charter 08 has articulated an alternative vision of China, challenging the official line that any decisions on reforms are the exclusive province of the state. It has encouraged younger Chinese to become politically active, and boldly made the case for the rule of law and constitutional multiparty democracy. And it has served as a jumping-off point for a series of conversations and essays on how to get there.
Liu may be isolated, but he is not forgotten. Next month, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee will announce the recipient of the 2010 prize. We ask the Nobel Committee to honor Liu Xiaobo’s more than two decades of unflinching and peaceful advocacy for reform, and to make him the first Chinese recipient of that prestigious award. In doing so, the Nobel Committee would signal both to Liu and to the Chinese government that many inside China and around the world stand in solidarity with him, and his unwavering vision of freedom and human rights for the 1. 3 billion people of China.
I have already said this on Twitter, but I think this is a good idea. I watched The Gate of Heavenly Peace again the other day and was struck — again — by the moment on the morning June 4th when the students come across a gun, which Liu Xiaobo desperately tries to smash on the stone facade of the Monument to the People’s Heroes. It is a moment of self-preservation, to be sure, but there is more to it than that.
Liu has paid dearly for his convictions, which are not altogether unreasonable. Certainly, his continued advocacy of human rights has advanced the cause of peace. Why not give the Nobel Peace Prize to him?
Speaking of peace prizes, I have heard through the grapevine that a Chinese organization is hoping to create and award one of their own, called the “Silk Road Peace Prize”. There’s not a lot of information available about this yet, but supposedly they’re modeling it after the Nobel Prize, and its winner will be judged by a similarly international committee of diplomats, artists, and politicians.
To be honest, I’m fairly skeptical of this. Although it’s probably unfair to judge things so early in the planning stages, the fact that they’re meeting with people like the vice-premier of Montenegro might not be a good sign ((Sorry Mr. Vice-Premier, but your name doesn’t look that impressive.)). Granted, I have no way of knowing who else is involved, as the project is apparently still in the planning stages. And I suppose these prizes have to start small.
My bigger concern is that this being China, the group may have to avoid entirely ever awarding their prize to someone Chinese. Candidates that would be approved by the Chinese government and the international community are scarce, so the group would be forced to choose between sacrificing international legitimacy and picking someone government-approved (which would be seen as a propaganda move even if the selection was actually fair), or sacrificing government approval and possibly endangering itself by picking someone who works for peace outside the official system.
Of course, they can easily pick people from other countries; still, it seems a shame that a Chinese organization couldn’t occasionally award their prize to someone Chinese, especially since the Nobel prize has never been given to anyone Chinese (unless, of course, you count a certain Lama…).