An ‘empty’ Nobel Peace PrizeAn empty chair and a simple photograph represented this year’s recipient of the Noble Peace Prize.
China refused to release jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo and banned travel by his family and friends to attend the awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway.
Liu, a literature professor and outspoken critic of the communist system who is serving 11 years in prison, was denied a temporary release to collect this year’s award. His wife also has been under house arrest since the award was announced in October. As a result, this year’s ceremony featured an empty chair with Liu’s photograph on it.
The literary critic has been advocating democratic rights and an end to the one-party system in China for the last two decades. He initiated a manifesto calling for greater freedoms tied to expression, religion, human rights and free elections. He was arrested and tried for “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power.”
In the eyes of the Chinese authorities, Liu has always been a threat to the state and a criminal who should be locked up.
Bestowing him with the most prestigious peace award, the Beijing government claims, is disrespectful to the country’s judicial sovereignty and classifies as interference in internal affairs. It blasted the move as a “political plot” to enforce Western values on China.
Of the 65 countries with embassies in Oslo, 19 skipped the ceremony. Beijing pressured countries with similar rigid control systems and human rights issues to boycott the event.
But the country neglected to realize that its use of muscle to order other countries not to attend an international event amounts to interference in the affairs of other states.
China hastily established a rival award called the “Confucius Peace Prize” and held a ceremony on the eve of the Oslo event. Authorities then blocked the Web sites of foreign media outlets to prevent Chinese citizens from watching the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
Human rights and political freedom are of the utmost importance to mankind. There cannot be a difference in Chinese and Western values in these two areas.
China’s concern is understandable. But its response does not befit a country with its global status.
China should stop disappointing the international community with such behavior and must reinvent itself to set an example as a genuine global leader.