“Liu Xiaobo Deserves an Ig Nobel Peace Prize” is a recent reaction from Barry Sautman (a political scientist and lawyer at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology) and Yan Hairong (an anthropologist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University) on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. Roland Song’s ESWN (東南西北) has also brought this to his readers attention. No doubt, this controversy is a huge stir in the West. Here is a copy of it forwarded to this mailing list by a David Thorstad with his short introduction:
Those who gave the Nobel Peace Price to a Chinese dissident explain that peace and human rights are inseparable. Yet the country that proclaims the loudest its attachment to human rights (the United States) is also the one that has the most soldiers in other countries and wages the most wars.
As I concluded in the in the prior post, I waged that this awarding will loose in the course of history. Many Westerners see the hypocrisy in the award too – not just the Chinese.
*Liu Xiaobo Deserves an Ig Nobel Peace Prize
Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong
In non-peace related fields, there are Nobel Prizes and, somewhat less famously, “Ig Nobel Prizes.” A group of scientists presents the latter annually, as a joke, but also to make a point about undeserving activity in their fields. One of the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics had several years back also received an Ig Nobel Prize.
The award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo is being celebrated globally, mainly by elites who claim to know what Liu is about. They say he is for human rights and democracy, but there is more to it than that, because much of what he is about is ignoble.
When people living in authoritarian societies demand freedom of speech, they usually do so with goals in mind that go beyond just allowing everyone to have a say. Liu Xiaobo’s political and social goals have scarcely been mentioned in the current wave of adulation, yet these goals are distinctly at variance with the interests of the vast majority of Chinese, as they perceive them.
What a few people in China know about Liu, but hardly any outsiders do, is his prescription for China’s development, first made when Liu was already in his 30s. In 1988, an interviewer asked him what condition China needs to have real historical change. He answered that China needs to have 300 years of colonization. Liu attributed what Hong Kong is today to a hundred years of colonization, so China would need 300 years of colonization for it to become like Hong Kong.
That was more than two decades ago, but in 2007, Liu stated that he did not want to take back what he had said in 1988, because it reflects a belief he retains. He attributes progress in China to Westernization and has said that the more that Westernization exists in the various spheres of Chinese society, the more progress is attained. He is either woefully ignorant of the nature of colonialism, which involved legally-mandated racial discrimination and the colonizers’ political and economic monopolies, or Liu finds it a congenial alternative because he is convinced of Western superiority. This can hardly be expected to be a sentiment shared by most Chinese.
In his 2007 statement, Liu claimed that in the economic sphere, progress could be chalked up to privatization. Not surprisingly then, “Charter ’08,” a statement he mainly authored and that called for a Western-style political system in China, also urges a “free market” transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership and the privatization of land ownership.
Privatization in Russia resulted in a colossal robbery of public wealth by a few oligarchs. To the extent privatization has occurred in China, it has mainly enriched former officials and has often worsened the conditions of labor. An agrarian capitalism based on landed property would have no assured benefit, but might bring back the execrable system of landlords and landless peasants. Further privatization would likely increase the already high level of inequality in China, which is why surveys show that most Chinese oppose it.
Many observers recognize that the Nobel Peace Prize is a politics prize and a morally bankrupt one at that: do something that accords with mainstream Western elite thinking about what “advances peace” and you may get a prize. Continue, for as long as you can, a war that kills thousands or even millions of civilians, as Henry Kissinger did in Indochina and Barack Obama is doing in Afghanistan, and you may still get a prize. If you attack China, the perceived potential rival of the West’s hegemon, as the Dalai Lama and Liu Xiaobo have done, your chances for a prize increase.
The Chinese government has argued that the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize has been infringed by awarding it to one who is imprisoned for violating Chinese law. That however is beside the point. There was no need to imprison Liu and there has been no need for a binary choice between shutting him up by fiat or treating him as a hero. Rather, there has only been a need to bring to light Liu’s self-proclaimed goals. If most Chinese, especially the non-elite majority, knew about his prescribed path for China, they would turn away from him as someone with things ignoble on offer.
The world has many political prisoners; most are in fact imprisoned in countries with governments that continue to receive all manner of assistance from other countries that proclaim themselves beacons of human rights and democracy. Among those myriads languishing in prison, most want something far better for the peoples of their country than does Liu Xiaobo and are far worthier of an award because of it.
Barry Sautman is a political scientist and lawyer at Hong Kong
University of Science & Technology; Yan Hairong is an anthropologist
at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Otto Kerner says
It would be nice if Sautman and Yan would cite which 2007 statement from Liu they are referring to. I haven’t heard this mentioned elsewhere. To paraphrase what he said without giving us the opportunity to read it for ourselves is very sloppy.
I used to think of Barry Sautman as someone who deserved our respect even if one disagrees with his conclusions.
I have just heard that you have just won something called the Nobel Peace Prize. How can one not hear the din of cussing and sparring, from both sides, that goes against the nature of this medal.
Folks like me think that the winner would just saunter up and collect the prize, to the strains of Tiptoe through the Tulips from some Swedish ukelele band.
Not! Last year, they gave the same thing to Obama and he promptly bombed Afghanistan for an encore!
Now I wouldn’t call that a pattern but one more time, and I’ll start taking bets.
Maybe you should get those old stiffs on the Nobel Committee tested for dyslexia, in case they have been reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace backwards?
Tell you what: you get Tutu and Lama to dial the nearest reindeer clinic to fix a brain scan for this Enid Blyton Famous Five. Who knows, maybe they are lemmings in disguise, cued to follow the pre-determined choice of the lobbyists and anti-China activists.
Me, I’ll sit down and talk to Mr Hu, the dear man, so rigidly duty-bound, like Queen Liz. He’ll have to tell his people that this old-school nanny style of running China won’t do these days.
Like, in 8+9, they went in with guns blazing, when a round of rubber bullets would have cleared the place.
Now, they make you stand in the corner for 11 years!
I mean, they could have just read you the riot act, slapped you on the wrist and made you write, 1,000 times, these lines from a stand-up comic:
Communism – you do as you are told.
Democracy – you do as you like, so long you do as you are told.
See? The party is too busy getting rich these days to give orders to the letter, to everyone.China is a grand socialist democracy.
So why should we want to graft the Western model onto our shiny design that we have built over the past 30 years?
Give them a 300 year lease to be masters in our own house and boss and kick us around? Are you mad?
A-bo, your self-loathing is so tragic!
You sound like one of those repressed homosexuals who despise other gay men. Do you look at the moon through your slanted Oriental eyes and declare: 外国 月亮 特别圆！
Listen up, mate. Chinese people enjoy drinking red wine, but they do not want to smell foreign fart! They love a nip and tuck to make their eyes round and the noses pointy – but the mind is irrefutably Chinese!
As everyone knows, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and yours are really misguided.
China would be condemned to be free, to paraphrase Sartre, in going down your path.
You have taken a road less travelled, which has led you to this Nobel and nowhere to go.
Barry Sautman says
Liu Xiaobo’s statement that he does not repudiate his comments re colonialism is found at http://www.open.com.hk/0701p26.html. This same cite was forwarded to a South China Morning Post fact-checker prior to the publication of the Sautman/Yan article on Liu Xiaobo. As with op-ed pieces everywhere, not everything authors want to include is allowed to be included. With Liu Xiaobo, for example, one would have liked to say something about his vituperative support for the Iraq War and George W. Bush or perhaps something about how all the five Norwegian politicians who comprise the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are representatives of political parties that have backed the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars.
Barry, Liu explicitly said in the same interview:
That is, Liu explicitly said that he did not think it was possible for China to take Hong Kong’s path. How, therefore, can this be said to be his goal? As for praising colonial rule in Hong Kong, the recent letter signed by Li Rui (amongst others) does pretty much the same thing.
I also note that, unlike other people on this website, you do at least note that his imprisonment is totally unnecessary. Will you also agree that it was unjust?
Finally, so that you might know the character of the people who have been propagating these out-of-context quotes, Wayne Lo, the same man who has been circulating this quote by emailing every English-language blog, also sent me this delightful email:
What a nice man.
Barry Sautman says
Whether Liu thinks that the colonization of China is practicable is of no consequence; his statement was clearly intended as a political endorsement of colonialism. Other “neo-conservative” politicians and intellectuals elsewhere in the world have made similar endorsements.
Li Rui, et al. did not praise colonialism in Hong Kong, but press freedom under colonialism in Hong Kong. That view is inaccurate, as shown by, inter alia, Lau Chi Kuen, a prominent editor of South China Morning Post, in Hong Kong’s Colonial Heritage (HK: Chinese U., 1997). His chapter on the media is entitled “A Strictly Controlled ‘Free Press.'” People in mainland often have little knowledge of the racist, repressive nature of colonialism in Hong Kong and some prettify it for political ends.
As for the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo being unjust, all unnecessary imprisonments are by definition unjust. The US, for example, has hundreds of thousands of prisoners of the “war on drugs.” Most are Black or Hispanic and many are imprisoned for selling marijuana, a substance most Americans regard as relatively anodyne. Their imprisonment being unnecessary, it is perforce also unjust.
Those who award or focus their attention on the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo, rather than the myriad other political prisoners in the world also do so for political ends.
@Barry – I agree that unnecessary imprisonment is unjust. I also oppose the war on drugs, which is waged as much in my home country (the UK) as it is in the US, and in China, and think that drugs like Marijuana and MDMA should be legalised.
I am also open to the idea that there may be Chinese dissidents more deserving of the prize than Liu, especially since the secretive nature of CCP repression means that we probably only ever hear about a small proportion of those who are imprisoned for criticising the government. Kaiser Kuo’s suggestion that the Gong Meng organisation should have received the prize is, in my view, not without merit.
I also think that the freedom of the press in pre-97 Hong Kong may have been over-emphasised in Li Rui’s letter, but I agree with Li Rui that the state of affairs in mainland China still lags behind that found in Hong Kong.
I also sincerely doubt that Vaclav Havel, at least, was motivated by pro-American sentiment when he nominated Liu Xiaobo for the prize, nor do I think that his nomination by members of the Czech and Slovak parliaments was motivated by any racist, imperialist, or colonialist sentiment. I cannot find any evidence that the decision of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee was motivated by such sentiment. At most, it seems likely that the choice may have been driven at least in part by the threats issued by the Chinese government of ill consequences for Sino-Norwegian relations should the prize be given to Liu.
Whilst you may disagree with Liu’s support for the Iraq war in 2004, it is true that many who supported that war in 2003-4 (including myself) have since changed their minds. You believe that Liu’s statement is an endorsement of colonial history, I disagree and think that it was merely a flip, throw-away comment. However, even an endorsement of colonial history does not amount to a course of action, it does not state that this is his goal. At most the statement displays sympathy, not intent.
Most significantly, I have been unable to find any evidence of pro-American, imperialist, colonialist, or racist sentiment in Charter 08, nor has anyone been able to produce such evidence when challenged. In fact, at least one person admitted to never having properly read the charter after being asked to substantiate his claim that it was ‘American Propaganda’. Surely if the colonisation of China was his goal, we would be able to find some evidence of it in Charter 08?
Thanks for weighing in. Your essay is an important one – especially for the “West”, because it will challenge very deeply held prejudiced views against China. At the end of the day, it will work towards people better understanding each other. Bravo to you and Yan Hairong.
Barry Sautman says
All defenders of Liu Xiaobo as the Nobel Peace Prize winner have tried to shrug off his 1988 endorsement of colonialism, including by ignoring his Dec. 2006 reaffirmation of that statement, published in the same journal where the earlier statement had been made. Whether Liu’s statement was programmatic is of no account. He and others political figures who have endorsed colonialism do so not because they expect their countries to be colonized, but in order to take to a logical conclusion their positive view of the role of the West, especially the US and UK, in the world. There are other political figures who, to set up a contrast with China, have done the same: Michael Sata, the leader of the main opposition party in Zambia, has said he prefers that Britain re-colonize his country rather than have “the Chinese” there. Tibetan exile leaders have also praised British colonialism.
Charter ’08 is an endorsement of the purported political ideals of the West, especially the US. It’s main features, besides wholesale privatization of industry and land, are endorsements of a multi-party system and the rule of law. That is supposedly what Western states have and what will alleviate China’s problems. India, which can be roughly compared to China, has had a multi-party system since its independence and has a presumptively independent judiciary. Yet every problem that China has (including political repression, cf. Kashmir, the northeast, and the northern belt of adivsai [ethnic minority] areas) is as bad, if not significantly worse, in India. The nomination of Liu reflected an endorsement by Havel, et al., of the “solution” advanced by Charter ’08’s authors. Like most pro-US government political figures, they always seek to cast the debate as between the simple binary of authoritarianism versus (conservative Western) liberalism, when there are, of course, other options.
Just as he has had an enduring commitment to righteousness of colonialism, Liu continued to endorse the war in Iraq well after the time when others, including most Americans and Britons, had turned against it. Not surprisingly, Liu endorsed Bush over Kerry in the 2004 US election because of the war, but a couple years later he held to the same position. A scientist friend of mine, of Chinese origin, but living in the US, has told me that she assisted a Swedish filmaker in 2006 in interviewing Liu in Beijing. The filmaker and British cameraman were shocked at Liu’s wholesale endorsement of the Iraq War.
Liu Xiaobo’s writings indicate that he would be a typical neo-conservative in the US context. As a supporter of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and, I’ve been told, retrospectively of the wars in Vietnam and Korea — he upholds neither peace or human rights.
Charles Liu says
Barry and Yan, thank you for the courage and intellctual honesty to provide an alternative voice to the “official narrative”. Practially the entire Western media had toed the party line and neglected to connect the evidence of foreign funding to Liu’s domestic political activity (Beijing court verdict, page 4 section 1 and 2) and the NED’s public declaration of fincial support for organization Liu had founded and headed.
Have you seen this article from 2004? Liu Xiaobo wrote about the Iraq war:
Here’re some of Liu’s own words:
On Bush’s war of terror –
Bush’s excellent accomplishment in anti-terror, is something Kerry abolutely can not negate”
On the Iraq war –
Bush adminstration’s ‘premptive strike” strateg is the right choice”
No matter what, the anti-Saddam war is righteous! President Bush’s decision is a right one!”
Finally, on Islam –
Thou, we should not view Islam’s teaching on terrorism in the same vein as fascism and communism… but this is obvious: a culture and [religious] system that produced this threat, must be exteremely intolerant and blood thirsty.”
Rev. Terry Jones
deserve the peace nobel prize more because he GAVE UP HIS RIGHT in order to maintain PEACE !
Without a modicum of will to attack you, I will say your post is sleazy. You are sound sort of imperial apologist, what is the problem? conscience or what. “… it is true that many who supported that war in 2003-4 (including myself) have since changed their minds.” while you have changed your mind you native country murdered more than million of Iraqis! Why don’t you go to Baghdad and ask for forgiveness from them?
Are you confident in own objectivity regarding this matter, supporter of Tony Blair? I do hope that Chinese Gov. is having long memory, and remembering of Opium and Boxer wars and who cause them.
Awesome posts, thank you. Finally to read something and confirmation of what I’ve suspected from day one.
Unfortunately, I’d seen this kind of “liberty soul”. I’d seen them in country what is now ex-Yugoslavia. These individuals were seeking more freedom, more democracy, fee-market, and the like. All activities are funded by western intels, primarily German BND and CIA, of course.
They/he are nothing but mercenaries, and should be treated like that. I am maybe harsh, but the result of fomenting the war in ex-Yugoslavia is horrific; both in human life and economic devastation of the region. And probably, it isn’t over yet. Today’s picture is tragic-comic, from prosperous peaceful country, there is six feudal principalities (allegedly independent), each imbued with ethno-religious hatress and with no future.
I wouldn’t go into discussion whether he is “justly” in prison or not. That question for me is rather philosophical than legal one. However, it is not arbitrary. I am not sympathetic to ruling regime in China, especially not since Tien an Men – which Western governments fully supported, and only one thing I do not understand: Why are Chinese rulers are so sensitive to that obscure award? I would let him go to take it, and wouldn’t allow him to return back home to China. Let him enjoy in “freedom and democracy” in country/ies of his masters that he so cherish and adore.
And link which speaks for itself.
又 送 封 信 给 刘 晓 波
First, the bad news, but you already know. Uncle Hu won’t give you time out, so forget the Oslo junket and the side trip to the Northern Lights.
Now, the good news: Miss Norway/World will collect the Peace gong on your behalf!
The decision was made at an emergency session of the furious Norwegian Parliament after the news broke:
We wuz robbed!
Insiders were shocked that stunning 23-year-old Norwegian university graduate Mariann Birkedal – the odds on favourite – didn’t even make the top five.
According to reports last night, observers speculated the judges bowed to pressure from Beijing, which is involved in a bitter international spat with Norway.
China is said to be furious after the Oslo-based Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded the coveted prize to the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo earlier this month.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1325372/MISS-WORLD-2010-China-charged-blocking-favourite-Miss-Norway.html#ixzz141OpLWRv
Yup, Miss Norway will do her victory march at the Nobels to your favourite tune Old Kentucky Home (oh, irony, Miss USA!) played by a Swedish ukelele band and sung by Abba.
A-bo, I ask you: just what are the Chinese leaders up to, messing around with young women at a beauty pageant? (Only lesbian losers call it a cattle show).
What next? Interfere with Crufts in England, just because of rumours that Maehara and/or his poodle will be there?
But, the Western media got it wrong again. The plan wasn’t to snub Norway but to appease …America!
Yup, Billary was in town!
You know these Americans. They point at something on the map and you have to hand it over. Otherwise, they will arrange for some regime change or bomb your embassy by mistake.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Anyway, Billary was eying Hainan and our Nanyang, sometimes called Southeast Asia (SEA).
She wanted to annexe it all into a new state called Seamerica!
The natives? Who cares what they want?
Luckily the Miss World pageant was on and Councillor Dai offered her the crown (for her candidate, silly. Billary is already Empress of Imperial America).
She bought the idea. Bill must have been a good boy lately.
Or it fits into her plan to divvy up the world under G2. America will take Miss World and all the women to hold up their half of the sky. Please don’t forget Sarah Palin, Lady Gaga and Chai Ling, Madame Secretary.
China will take all the men, most importantly, including Leonardo diCaprio!
Better Miss USA than Miss Japan for the title, I say.
The fenqing would have immediately despatched her in a fishing trawler for a week’s tour of OUR Diaoyutai islands.
Of course, the Japanese Coast Guard can accompany her home from there, for a victory lunch with Naoto Kan.
If Kan-san is not free, he can always send his poodle or Maehara as his representative. Same thing, no. A-bo?
Miss Norway will definitely rep you better than Wu’er kaixi.
He’s not in good shape and has denied rumours that he will do the Nobel honours.
I mean, he looked plump even in the video that showed him eating in a fancy restaurant when everyone was supposed to be on hunger strike that June, no?
What do you mean, it’s all made up by the party?
I will have another finger-wagging talk with Uncle Hu – they need to stop this cartoon-ish kind of propaganda!
China needs to meet the high bar set by Western media for objective, fact-checked information!
At least no-one has thought of asking Rebiya to stand in, though.
Imagine if she flies into Oslo on her broom!
That would make the Nobel awards really look fly-by-night!
中 国 同 包 送 爱 心 关 怀 等 你 回 祖 国 怀 抱！
BTW: Councillor Dai wanted to give the Secretary, as a gift, a set of Freedom Knickers, to represent one colour revolution for every day of the week!
Made in China. Not a good idea during mid-term polls, yah.
In her first moment of freedom in seven and a half years, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi told her fellow people of Burma, now known as Myanmar, that “the basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech” and that “if we are united, we can get what we want.”
“However, the release of Suu Kyi, one of the world’s most famous political prisoners, after her house arrest order last weekend is not precisely a triumphant democratic moment like the release of Nelson Mandela of South Africa many are now comparing it to. The South African government at the time freed Mandela and later cooperated with him because it bowed to international pressure against its apartheid policy. The Myanmar junta’s release of Suu Kyi is seen by some commentators as either a diversion for its rigged election or as a show of its confidence.
Myanmar’s decision to free one of the world’s best known freedom fighters might have inadvertently highlighted the almost hysterical fear of dissidents held by its fellow member in the shrinking club of autocratic countries, mainland China. Beijing has long claimed that its rule provides both social stability and economic prosperity to its people. Given China’s rise in the past few decades to its current status as the second-largest economy in the world, the mainland government should be confident enough to put its claim to the test. The Chinese government should release Liu Xiaobo and other political prisoners, not only to show its respect of human rights but also to prove its claim as a government that can bring peace and prosperity to the world.”
An interesting article from F. William Engdahl: