The Prize for China
9th October 2010
From one activist to another, we cannot resist commenting on yesterday's
award of the
2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese democracy and human rights campaigner
who is currently serving an 11-year jail term imposed on 25-Dec-2009 for
"agitation aimed at subverting state power". His crime was to be one of the
Charter 08, a petition signed by over 350 intellectuals and activists
demanding the right to free speech, democracy and an independent judiciary.
reacted to the award with its usual bellicose rhetoric and censored internet
coverage and discussion of the event. Mobile text messages with Liu's name were
reportedly blocked. Such is the success of the Great Firewall of China that many
of the 1.3 billion citizens have no idea who Liu Xiaobo is.
In the same week, Premier
an interview to CNN in which
"I believe freedom of speech is indispensable, for any
country, a country in the course of development and a country that has become
strong. Freedom of speech has been incorporated into the
Chinese constitution [Article 35].
I don't think you know all about
China on this point. In China, there are about 400 million Internet users and
800 million mobile phone subscribers. They can access the Internet to express
their views, including critical views...
I believe I and all the Chinese people have such a conviction
that China will make continuous progress, and the people's wishes for and needs
for democracy and freedom are irresistible. I hope that you will be able to
gradually see the continuous progress of China."
Strong stuff - and spoken for an overseas audience. In mainland China, the
blocked by censors, so citizens don't get to hear their Premier using his
constitutional freedom of speech to advocate, well, freedom of speech.
Liu Xiaobo joins an elite of activists among
previous Nobel Peace laureates including
Nelson Mandela (1993), who went on
to be President of South Africa,
(1983), who went on to be President of Poland, and
Suu Kyi (1991), still under house arrest in Burma, who would otherwise have
been Prime Minister after the 1990 election which her party won.
Liu's prize is a wake-up call to the Chinese leadership. China's huge
economic progress since 1979 has not been accompanied by liberalization of human
rights, particularly freedoms of speech, the media, debate and information, nor
the establishment of an independent judiciary. In our view, these freedoms are a
necessary condition for the sustainable future prosperity of China and its
citizens. You can only go so far with just lifting people out of poverty. The
low-hanging fruit has been picked. After satisfying basic needs and providing
modern conveniences, a more affluent society has the luxury of time to wonder
why their municipal, provincial and state authorities are so unaccountable and
corruptible, and why the state still intervenes so much in their affairs.
In Hong Kong, at least
until 2047, we are privileged with all of these freedoms except the right to
elect our own leadership. We can debate public policies freely, we can rely on
the courts for a fair hearing, and any rare corruption of officials is quickly
rooted out. It is only policy-making itself which remains beyond the reach of HK
citizens who are denied a ballot box. That in itself leads to social discontent
and sub-optimal policy choices, but imagine how much worse it would be without
the ability to publicly criticise and debate the policies.
We have a sneaking suspicion that beneath the party-line exterior of Wen Jiabao, there is a reformist in him seeking to break out. His time as a
leader expires in Mar-2013, possibly too soon to overcome the hardliners in the
politburo, but one of his successors may put his words into action, and bring
China into an open-society era. Don't forget, the Nobel Peace Prize has not
always gone to dissidents. In 1993, Nelson Mandela was not the only recipient -
he was joined by reformist South African President
F.W. de Klerk, who paved the road to the abolition of apartheid, and in
1990, the prize went to reformist
Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union, for his role in ending the Cold
War and opening up the Soviet Union and the
The next time a Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to a Chinese citizen, it may go to
a leader, not a dissident.
© Webb-site.com, 2010
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