The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo and what it means to the Chinese
The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize has just been awarded to Liu Xiabo, and according to the Nobel committee, the key reason was “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. Of course, the Western media is using this occasion to lambaste the Chinese government. They are parroting the anti-China positions from all the die-hard “human rights” activists throughout the West. (See here, here, and here.) They also compare Liu Xiaobo’s case to that of Carl von Ossietzky who won the same prize in 1935 for opposing Hitler. This has gone too far, and it’s about time the Chinese perspective be heard.
Really, it is amazing there is an urge within the West to compare China to that of Hitler Germany. Needless to say, I am not going to waste any breath arguing how stupid that is.
Liu was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. He is the co-author of “Charter 08” and was deeply involved in the failed Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989. “Charter 08” was discussed heavily on this blog two years ago when the English translation was first published by an American professor, Perry Link, on the New York Review of Books. This document is important, because the content reflects what Liu Xiaobo stands for (his attitude, his understanding or lack of of democracy, and his charge against the Chinese Communist Party).
First of all, I encourage you to read the document before reading this post further. What’s wrong with it? First of all, it’s a very amateurish document without any depth of understanding of Western thinking behind democracy and human rights (and never-mind the Chinese view). No intellectuals in China are really going to put their names behind it, never-mind the 2000 signatures it got. I’ll quote Allen‘s comments from a prior debate over “Charter 08”:
When I read it, I got a distinct feeling of vacuousness, of non-conviction, of someone groping with a shallow intellectual understanding of Western political philosophy …
I am a musician … and take music pretty seriously. Recently, one of my friend introduced me to this nifty software that can arrange beats, chord progressions, even melodies when given the bare minimum of “seed” parameters. The resulting mix is usually not that bad … but definitely not very good. It’s usable in some clubs, perhaps as background music – but not as “real music” in real concert halls…
Anyways – this piece sounds just like such a mix. A computer program, given some Western ideological dictionary, could probably come up with something similar. I personally would treat this document more like a comic strip of political fodder than say the Magna Carta, the American Bill of Rights, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, the Communist Manifesto, or the Federalist Paper!
The tone of the document is also wrong. Here is why according to this comment:
“It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse.”
I’m all for opening China up further, but the tone of this article is ridiculous. While I agree rights of the people in China is more theory than in execution, it’s not as if the Chinese people had a lot of rights before the Communists took power.
And I don’t care for “legislative democracy.” That sounds like a surefire way to failure. Western China development would fall, Chinese politicians would start supporting short term shortsighted plans just to ensure votes, etc.
The amount of changes in this “declaration” is ridiculous. I would support direct elections all the way up to city mayor, but past that, China is still too early in a developmental stage with an unwieldy population crisis to have complete direct elections.
What type of people actually signed this, do any China bloggers know? Like are they supporters of full democracy now, people who wish to completely overthrow the CCP from power etc. To me, it seems as if only the “rights activist” type frequently featured in the western media would support something like this.
Also, two thousand people in China isn’t really a lot. And so far, none of the people mentioned are names which I recognize and/or respect for writing serious, well thought essays on democratizing China, not the demagogues and panderers to the western media that are usually featured.
From the postscript I see that most well known and respected signatories were only questioned, not detained. The only people detained seemed to be people who were already on the verge of being contained. This is already such a huge improvement that I’m sure most people who’ve been following China long term would agree with me that allowing China to progress along its current path and speed would be most beneficial in the long run. No one wants to see another disaster like the one that happened in Russia because of a lack of patience, especially since China’s progressing so nicely.
Obviously, the Chinese do not view “freedom”, “human rights”, and “democracy” in a fundamentalist way as the activists do in the West. (See, “William Hooper: “The Scientific Development Concept”“.) There are in fact a lot of problems with democracy. See our featured post by Allen, “Understanding Democracy.” These various rights are nevertheless something the Chinese want more of. As Deng Xiaoping’s translator, Zhang Weiwei said, there is a order of development. See “Reflecting on Western Democratization.”
Criticism in Chinese are abound too. Here is an example:
It contains language about federalism, I feel duped. A prescription from Chinese who doesn’t understand China? Wouldn’t this kill common people and end China’s future?
Honestly, I don’t believe Liu Xiaobo would get into much trouble for co-authoring “Charter 08” per se. I don’t know for certain why Liu Xiaobo was convicted for subversion of state power, but given the fact that he received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (i.e. ex-CIA), he is either stupid or he is anti-Chinese government (or both in the eyes of the Chinese). Here is what Charles Liu found:
Here is in Chinese on Liu Xiaobo’s connection to the NED:
It appears there are more than “incidental connection” between the author of ’08 Charter’, Liu Xiaobo, and guess who – the NED:
Liu Xiaobo, President of Chinese dissident group ICPC:
ICPC received $135,000 from the NED in 2007:
$135,000 from the NED in 2006:
$85,000 from the NED in 2004:
Now, I’m pretty sure it is a violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Aact for someone US resident to take Chinese government’s money, then advocate/incite the overthrow of the US government and abolition of existing US constitution.
And ICPC is not the only source of my tax dollar for Liu Xiaobo. He also gets money from Uncle Sam for minzhu zhongguo (Democratic China):
– $145,000 in 2007:
– $136,000 in 2005:
– $135,000 in 2004:
Pray tell, why would we lament Chinese money corrupting our political process, while sending many folds more to China, to corrupt their political process? Advocating overthrowing of the Chinese government? Abolition of China’s constitution?
And why can’t FM get this kind of money? Second thought better not, FARA can land you up to 25 years in jail.
For more examples of Chinese thinking on this topic, here is a translation by Charles Liu:
Regarding 08 Charter
by Shao Han
1. The government detained an author of “08 Charter”, Liu Xiaobo, on suspicion of subverting the state’s authority, summoned another key person, Zhang Zhuhua. I feel this is illegal, because it is every citizen’s fundamental right to voice opinion on issues of national importance. Neither the authors nor the singers conspired to overthrow the authority, only to urge the authority to reform. Subversion is in no way implicated.
2. Therefore, I call on the authority to speedily release of Mr. Liu Xiaobo, return confiscated properties, and take this opportunity to open dialogue, allow people to consult on the affairs of our nation.
3. “08 Charter” is a historical document with a grand view on China’s political future. It is rational, peaceful, constructive, and important to the future of Chinese government. I would like to offer my highest praise to the authors and signers.
4. I agree with 08 Charter’s constitutional and democratic theory fully, however under current states, its feasibility is zero.
5. Regardless if the signers of “08 Charter” see this as a political movement, its acceptance as a political movement by the society should be considered.
6. It’s reasonable to see, people under [the CCP’s] rule, including myself, would agree with O8 Charter’s ideals and implements in protecting human rights.
7. However the Charter’s most important mandate is to solve problems on a decisive, meaningful level. That is, how to make the CCP accept its views.
8. It’s obvsious the Charter did not consider this – in another word it absolutely did not consider if the authority could accept advice like this.
9. From a historical view, China’s current political transformation is the final push of 1911 Revolution. From Republic of China to communist rule they are unfinished business, or change of course, from the 1911 Revolution. And now we want to change the course back to where it should be headed.
10. The 1911 Revolution has two founding fathers. One is Sun Yatsen, the other is Yuan Shikai. People have always downplayed Yuan’s role as a founding father of the Republic of China. This is an objective bias based on morality, not an accepted political discussion. Had there not been cooperation and negotiation between Sun and Yuan bringing about success, where would have Republic of China been? Southern Revolution Party’s coffer only had a few dollars, could it have beaten the court troops? Even if it the Revolution Party amassed a large war chest and wins the battle, how many would have died? So, regardless of how one feels, we should thank both Sun and Yuan for their contribution in building a foundation for peaceful constitutional rule. Yuan Shikai wanted to be the emperor and died trying, was after the fact. At least in 1911, he was one of the founding fathers.
11. China’s political future should be peacefully complete constitutional reform, and the CCP must be a central force, even the most important force. Therefore, the CCP can not be treated as an enemy – in name or in practice. The Charter as is, if implemented, will make the CCP an enemy of all Chinese citizens (although the Charter did not intend for this). Would the CCP agree to the demand to reform by transforming itself into an enemy of the state?
12. Authoritarian rule’s foundation is it needs enemy, at all times. Right now the Charter’s advice served the purpose of creating an enemy. They see this as not diminishing their authority, but temporarily strengthened their authority – but in the long run of course it diminishes their authority.
13. China’s future constitutional rule must be without an enemy – benevolent politics without enemy. Politics should be part of public life, inwardly govern to benefit all citizens, outwardly govern to obtain national interest.
14. This document’s biggest flaw is it neglected to consider what would completion of constitutional rule look like under current system and framework. There’s no free lunch; right now the CCP controls the government, why would they give up the benefit and move towards public governance under the constraint of constitutional rule? By what rationale?
15. Perhaps these three: 1) If continues, CCP rule will destabilize, create chaos, people will die, sovereignty will weaken; the CCP lives and dies with the people. 2) Only by bringing an end to this mode of governance will China, and the CCP, be saves. 3) The process to bring this to an end requires some fundamental promise to the CCP and its leadership.
16. Two reasons led to the abdication of Qing Court: one is after the 1911 revolution, Yuan Shikai coerced the Qing Court, second is the republican government granted preferential legislative treatment for the monarchy – the price for peacefully bring about constitutional rule.
17. After nearly a hundred years, Chinese people’s political acumen should be better than during end of Qing dynasty, not worse. But this 08 Charter’s political competency is lower than Sun Yuan period.
18. China’s political future, if to choose the path of peaceful transformation, principles based on adversarial relationship need to be abandoned. The CCP should be seen as an ally in reform – even as a leader in reform.
19. In the lat 60 years the CCP, intentionally or unintentionally, brought the Chinese people countless catastrophes, and today it still holds onto power. If peaceful reform does not provide a formulation with certain amount of forgiveness but demand they end their own lives, is tantamount to the dream of a simpleton.
20. For the CCP to become an ally, even a leader, in peaceful constitutional reform, there needs to be some “stained founding fathers” – perhaps they have received large ill-gotten gains, but as long as they agree to promote peaceful constitutional reform, besides returning some portions of their family fortune to the national coffer, everything else is forgiven. And they and their clan’s safety are protected, allowing them to become innocent citizens equal under the law. If they are national leaders, after their terms end the book will be closed. Above policy is aimed towards the CCP leadership.
21. Without the above policy of forgiveness, the CCP and the people will fight to mutual defeat, with end result we can not predict – no matter what, those scenarios will invariably lead to violence and bloodshed. Do we really need and end no one can predict, thru means no one wishes for?
22. To tred the water with stability, first we must test the water. How to test the water? Have the CCP formulate “transitional constitutional rule legislation”, not limited to these provisions: 1) the CCP continues to govern, with term limits; 2) implement separation of powers with oversight; 3) allow freedom of association, to form political party. With the exception of compete in elections, all legal activity are allowed; 4) protect existing provisions in the Constitution; 5) include and protect additional civil rights; 6) nationalize the military, remove party influence; 7) confirm amnesty and forgiveness for CCP’s past 60 years, ensure this will not be reversed by other political parties in the future; Extend, by conference, the transitional governance period, if multiple party elections are not mature. These policies should be established constitutionally.
23. These are just my simple thoughts. Society at large should be consulted on policy; at least problems should be publically, peacefully, rationally discussed.
The 2009 award to U.S. President Obama was just bizarre. We get it – it was an anti-Bush award. Okay, fast forward to 2010, it’s an anti-China award. Nobel Peace Prize committee may have garnered some brownie points with the so called “human rights” and “democracy” activists in the West (and the Western media), but in my view, alienating 1.3 billion people on this planet is not that good an idea.
I am just shocked that the Nobel Peace Prize committee would stand behind this rather lame “Charter 08.” As Allen said, this was not a Chinese Magna Carta. If it was, the Peace Prize could perhaps have a chance of riding some Chinese history. The Nobel Peace Prize committee took another gamble. I wager that it will loose this one in the course of history.
“Norwegian jurist calls Nobel Peace Prize wrong, illegal”
Updated: 2010-10-13 10:37
Norwegian jurist and writer Fredrik S. Heffermehl called it a wrong decision and illegal to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, according to the website of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
In a comment on the website on Oct 8, the jurist said the Nobel Peace Prize was to support those organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to defend peace, promote disarmament and abolish national military forces.
The only criterion to award the prize is “peace” and “disarmament,” added Heffermehl, who took the committee to the Administrative Court in Stockholm under the charge of “breaching Nobel’s wishes and illegally awarding the peace prize” two years ago.
On Oct 10, Heffermehl further criticized that the selection of the peace prize winner by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has violated Nobel’s intended purpose, in a posting published on the website of The World Association of International Studies (WAIS), founded in 1965 at Stanford University.
Nobel established the prize for “the champions of peace” to support their efforts at disarmament and peace movement.
“With all due respect to Liu Xiaobo, this is yet another example that this is no longer Nobel’s prize, it is the peace prize of the Norwegian Storting (the supreme legislature in Norway).”
The best the committee could do for human rights, democracy, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection would be to wholeheartedly defend the work that the Nobel would support, for deep change in international relations and abolition of national military forces.
Heffermehl also said the Nobel committee has not received prize money for free use, but was entrusted with money to give to pivotal elements in creating peace, breaking the vicious circle of arms races and military power games.
From this point of view the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize is again an illegitimate prize awarded by an illegitimate committee.
In his book The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted, Fredrik Heffermehl finds the Norwegian Nobel Committee has come under increasing political, geopolitical, and commercial pressures to make inappropriate awards.