Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize


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Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo is the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced Friday morning. Publishing couldn’t be happier -- the American Assn. of Publishers sent a release saying it ‘joined with publishing colleagues all over the world in cheering this morning’s announcement.’ PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah, who nominated Liu, said he was ‘absolutely delighted.’

The only thing that would be better news is if Liu were also released from Jinzhou Prison.


In December 2009, after being detained for more than a year, the Chinese literary critic and academic was sentenced, on Christmas Day, to 11 years in prison. The trial, held on Dec. 23, took place in less than three hours. In May, Liu was moved from a detention center in Beijing to Liaoning’s Jinzhou Prison.

Liu had been charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’ for his role as an author of Charter 08, a call for increased democratic reforms and greater freedoms in China. More than 300 scholars and writers signed Charter 08, which was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among the things, Charter 08 calls for freedom of expression:

We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to ‘the crime of incitement to subvert state power’ must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.

The Peace Prize was awarded to Liu ‘for his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,’ said the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the prize each year.

At the announcement, committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said, ‘We have a responsibility to speak when others are not able or willing to speak. I think it’s very important now to look to the path that China has begun. It has become a very big power in economic as well as political terms, and it is normal that big powers should be under criticism and debate.’

The case of Liu Xiaobo goes back to 1989. A visiting scholar at Columbia University, Liu returned to China and was a key participant -- and advocate for peaceful protests -- at Tiananmen Square. He has spent a total of five years in prison -- including three in ‘reeducation through labor,’ a system of administrative detentions -- for his activities at Tiananmen Square and continued advocacy for freedoms and democracy.


PEN continues to call for Liu’s release.

The organization ‘has always stood not only for free expression but also for cultural exchange across nations,’ Appiah said in a news release Friday. ‘We believe we all have a great deal to gain from hearing from China. A China with greater free expression will not only be better for the Chinese, it will allow her citizens -- and her government -- a louder, stronger voice in the community of nations.’

-- Carolyn Kellogg

December 2009 demonstration at the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong. Credit: YM / EPA