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Peace Nobel for jailed China rebel

A Chinese professor serving an 11-year sentence for co-authoring a manifesto for democratic rights won China’s first Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Beijing promptly denounced the award as a ‘blasphemy’, reports Reshma Patil. Liu Xiaobo speaks on freedom

world Updated: Oct 09, 2010 01:31 IST
Reshma Patil

A Chinese professor serving an 11-year sentence for co-authoring a manifesto for democratic rights won China’s first Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Beijing promptly denounced the award as a ‘blasphemy’.

In his shared prison cell in northeast China, Liu Xiaobo, 54, may not even be aware he has won the prize for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”, as the citation by the Norwegian Nobel Committee put it.

The announcement was blacked out on international news channels in China. By evening in Beijing, Google searches for Liu were blocked. The state media reported only a terse statement denouncing the prize.

In Oslo, the committee — known to have faced pressure from Beijing not to select Liu — said: “China is in breach of several international agreements to which it’s signatory, and its own provisions concerning political rights.”

“Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this widespread struggle for human rights in China.”

Beijing’s foreign ministry promptly warned that the prize could harm China-Norway relations.

Liu was arrested in December 2008 for co-authoring a manifesto called Charter 08 that sought greater freedom and individual rights for the Chinese. Beijing banned it online but 10,000-12,000 Chinese signed it, risking police interrogation and detentions.

Liu was also jailed earlier for leading the Tiananmen student democracy protests of 1989.

“Liu’s friends often tell me they wanted him to get the prize more than he did, because they think this is an opportunity to change China,” his wife Liu Xia said.

“The Nobel Peace Prize cannot change magically China into a rights respecting country. Only Chinese people can do that...but the award shatters the myth that only the Chinese government speaks for the Chinese people,’’ Nicholas

Bequelin of Hong Kong-based Human Rights Watch told HT. Bequelin described Liu as “a really traditional Chinese intellectual in demeanour, not sort of a western-educated liberal...a man of integrity and great moral stature”.