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Peace prize furore stirs China reformists [The Age]

Peace prize furore stirs China reformists
John Garnaut, Beijing
Source – The Age, published December 10, 2010

TONIGHT in Oslo an empty chair will show how China has inadvertently achieved its Nobel peace prize dream by sentencing the 2010 recipient, political reformer Liu Xiaobo, to 11 years in jail.

For Dr Liu’s supporters, the security crackdown and propaganda blitz before the award ceremony have exposed the Communist Party’s crisis of legitimacy.

“The regime looks so powerful but also so weak,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a leading Beijing civil rights lawyer who was in Tiananmen Square with Dr Liu on June 4, 1989. “It depends on force to maintain itself but force itself is in fact powerless.”

The award has catalysed Mr Pu and other reformists to imagine a post-Communist Party China. “Liu Xiaobo’s ideas will become a platform for truth and compromise at the time of transition,” Mr Pu said. “There should not be flesh, blood and political purges.”

But for those who run the Communist Party’s security, media and even foreign policy organs, giving the award to “a criminal and a prisoner” is nothing short of an attack on China.

Several nations have bowed to pressure to avoid attending the ceremony.

The Nobel Prize Committee said this week that 44 of the countries that had embassies in Oslo had signalled they would send representatives, while 19 said they would not. Australia was not invited because it doesn’t have an embassy in Oslo.

Chinese security officers have kept Dr Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest, without legal process, to stop her from communicating with reporters and collecting the award on her husband’s behalf. More than a hundred of Dr Liu’s close supporters have been blocked from leaving the country.

The episode contrasts with the Soviet Union and Poland during the Cold War, when they both let the wives of dissidents collect the Nobel peace prize on their behalf. China is now the only country to have a Nobel peace prize winner in jail.

China’s state-owned media have mostly tried to suppress reporting of the award ceremony while also sullying its status in the eyes of Chinese who have access to other sources of information. Transmission of CNN and BBC was blocked in Beijing yesterday as international media outlets began focusing on the ceremony.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a nationalistic state-owned newspaper, said he strived for truth and free expression but Dr Liu’s call for democracy was “naive and ridiculous”.

He said: “Telling China to adopt American or Australian-style democracy? Won’t China become chaotic if it does so? My own experience tells me it certainly will. And so many people in China think like me.”

Hu claimed to speak on behalf of China’s ordinary people because he had conducted rigorous surveys to find out what they thought.

Several Global Times stories yesterday criticised Dr Liu’s peace award as a Western conspiracy against China. In the paper’s online opinion poll 91 per cent of respondents agreed intellectuals could not represent the opinion of Chinese people; 64 per cent agreed China should have its own “Confucius” peace prize.

A Chinese organisation with links to the Ministry of Culture said it had given the Confucius prize to a Taiwanese proponent of cross-strait relations, Lien Chen.


Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Confucius, Education, Human Rights, Influence, International Relations, Media, Nationalism, Nobel Peace Prize, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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