The China effect on Nobel

Updated: Nov 25, 2010, 15:35 PM IST

Kamna Arora

Once again, China’s economic might has overshadowed the state of human rights in the Asian country. According to the Nobel Institute, several countries remain uncertain about whether to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10. The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to jailed Liu Xiaobo has left China fuming so much that the Dragon has even threatened the participating countries to bear the "consequences".

Liu - the first Chinese to win the Peace Prize - has been awarded “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. But for Beijing, Liu is a "criminal”, who is serving 11 years for “subversion of state power”.

Six countries - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq - have turned down an invitation for their ambassadors in Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad said the embassies of India, Pakistan and Indonesia were among those which were waiting for clearance from their home governments before accepting the invitation.

Human rights is one issue that makes China really uncomfortable. Despite Beijing’s warning, most of the Western countries have said that they will attend the event. The West repeatedly raises its voice regarding human rights abuses in China, but steers clear of adopting any stern stance in view of Beijing’s robust economy.

The United States, which often acts as world’s self-appointed policeman, and is also the world’s oldest democracy, champions human rights, but gets blinded by the blitz of the Chinese economy. Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron paid a visit to China, and cautiously opted not to take up Liu’s case in formal talks with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. However, reports said he brought the issue up later over dinner.

During Chinese President Hu Jintao’s trip earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy decided to zip his lips on human rights and why not - the trip resulted in over USD 20 billion worth of contracts.

Fifteen Nobel Peace Prize winners later urged G20 leaders to press China for Liu’s release, but to no avail. This is what I call China’s economic effect!

China is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that no one from Liu’s family attends the ceremony. Liu’s wife Liu Xia is also under house arrest and his two brothers are not sure if they would be allowed to leave China. There is a risk that 2010 will mark the first time in the Nobel Prize`s 109-year-history that neither the laureate nor a representative will show up at the ceremony to receive the award.

The 54-year-old bespectacled scholar, writer, poet and social commentator first came to public prominence during the bloody suppression of protesters at Beijing`s Tiananmen Square in 1989. He had returned to China from the United States to participate in the demonstrations. He was then sent to prison for nearly two years for the role he played.

He was a leading author of Charter 08 - a pro-democracy manifesto which was published on December 10, 2008. The Charter 08 affirmed the significance of freedom, human rights, and equality as “universal values shared by all humankind”, and called for direct elections, independent judiciary and an end to Communist Party dominance. This manifesto led to his sentencing of 11 years in prison.

When Liu’s wife informed him that he had won the Nobel Prize, he wept and said, “This is for the Tiananmen martyrs.”

In a choice between human rights vs. commercial opportunity, many countries seem to have chosen the latter. Sorry to say Mr Liu, your plight has fallen on selfish ears.

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