Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday in an Oslo ceremony derided by Beijing as a farce, and dedicated it from his prison cell to the “lost souls” of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
As a small pro-China demonstration went ahead in Oslo, about 1,000 ambassadors, Norway’s king and queen, other dignitaries and scores of Chinese dissidents defied Chinese anger to attend the ceremony in a flower-decked Oslo city hall.
In Beijing, police stepped up patrols at key points yesterday, including Tiananmen Square and Liu’s apartment where his wife is believed to be under house arrest. Authorities tightened a clampdown on dissidents. Western news Web sites, including the BBC and CNN, went black at 8pm, as the ceremony got underway in Oslo.
“Liu Xiaobo has done nothing wrong and Beijing must release him, Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said at the Oslo ceremony. “Liu has only exercised his civil rights. He has not done anything wrong. He must be released.”
Standing on a flower-decked podium next to an empty chair and a large portrait to represent the absent Liu, Jagland said China’s Constitution gives its citizens the right to “freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”
“In the past 100 to 150 years, human rights and democracy have gained an ever-stronger position in the world,” he said.
Therefore, “the human rights activists in China are defenders of the international order and the main trends in the global community. Viewed in that light, they are thus not dissidents, but representatives of the main lines of development in today’s world,” he said.
Liu’s “views will in the long run strengthen China,” Jagland said.
“Liu has told his wife that he would like this year’s Peace Prize to be dedicated to ‘the lost souls from the 4th of June.’ It is a pleasure for us to fulfill his wish,” Jagland said.
He then placed the Peace Prize diploma and gold medal on the empty chair, explaining it was impossible to hand it to Liu or any of his close family members, who were prevented from traveling to Oslo for the ceremony.
It was the first time that a laureate under detention has not been formally represented since Nazi Germany barred journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from attending in 1935.
Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann read out an address made by Liu, 54, during his trial for subversion in December last year. He was sentenced to 11 years at that trial.
“Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. [The] enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love,” Liu told the court.
However, the former literature professor also saw cause for hope.
“It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme,” Liu said.