This morning I told you about the Chinese threat against Norway, if the Nobel committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo. I am happy to report that Norway doesn’t appear to give a flying fuck about what China thinks is best for world peace, and has awarded him the prize anyway:
Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu is a 54-year-old literary critic and democracy activist who was awarded the prize for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said Friday. The Chinese government reacted angrily to Liu’s win. News of the prize was blacked out by Chinese state-owned media, and government censors blocked prize reports from the internet.
This is good news for pretty much everyone except Mr. Liu’s family, who are now facing a lot of unwanted attention from the Chinese government. There are many people who support the Chinese government. I’m sure there are millions of Chinese citizens who think it’s doing a bang-up job, and feel that the criticisms leveled against it are unfair. That’s a perfectly reasonable position to hold, particularly when you are the recipient of the benefits of socialist rule. However, when your freedoms are won at the price of the human rights of other people, then it is entirely reasonable to criticize the actions of the government. When the response to criticism is to jail or otherwise silence the critics, you can no longer claim that the government is acting in the best interests of its citizens – it’s acting in the best interest of itself.
And that’s exactly what’s happened:
Meanwhile, Chinese media was instructed by the censors that messages containing Liu’s name were to be blocked and China Mobile users were already complaining that text messages with his name couldn’t be sent. Censors instructed microblogs China-wide to set “sensitive word filters” to block Liu’s names and stop all interactive online forums where people could leave comments about him.
It’s one thing to say that Mr. Liu’s writings are not in the best interest of China’s stability. It’s entirely reasonable to point out that he is in violation of Chinese law, and that his actions do not reflect the position of the government or the Chinese people. However, when the response is to prevent anyone from even learning about the award. If, for example, some organization awarded Paul Bernardo a humanitarian prize, do you imagine that such an award wouldn’t make the news? The outcry from Canadians would be overwhelming, and the award would be roundly condemned. The government wouldn’t need to shield us from the news by censoring its announcement.
I love the reason given for the award as well:
[Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern] Jagland, reading the citation, said China’s new status in the world “must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights.” Mr Jagland said that, in practice, freedoms enshrined in China’s constitution had “proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens”.
The gauntlet has been thrown down, China. When you cut yourself off from the international community, you were free to govern as you saw fit. However, when you become a player on the world stage, you can no longer continue to control the conversation as rigorously as you once did. The sooner that the government (any government, because these kinds of tactics are not unique to China) realizes this, the better off will be its citizens.