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After years of trashing its own reputation the Nobel Peace Prize redeems itself in 2010

October 9, 2010

After years of trashing its own reputation, the Nobel Peace Prize redeems itself in 2010

For the last few years, the Nobel Peace Prize could easily be summed up as a popularity prize for a bunch of uninspiring ideas. Micro Loans may be a worthy campaign for alleviating the poverty in certain developing areas, but it hardly of war stopping magnitude. However, this Micro Loans prize, given some years ago, towers above more recent recipients such as Al Gore and the US President Obama. Al Gore appears to have received his Peace Prize as a reward for making a successful activist film, before fading into obscurity and irrelevance ever since. This is hardly earth-shattering stuff, or does it indicate any suffrage on Gore’s part (certainly not in the same category as a Mother Teresa for example). However, a far more embarrassing moment for the Nobel Committee came when they issued the prize to President Obama, despite the fact that he contributed nothing to the cause of peace. Rather than being able to point to a long history of achievement and activism in the area of peace, Obama was a blank slate. He was being issued a Nobel Prize for Peace for what he might do rather what he had done. So other than his celebrity status as US President how was he any different than any other famous person with good intentions? Worse came when he gave his acceptance speech where he defended the use of force and pre-emptive strikes. At best, the Nobel Peace Prize was becoming uninspiring and irrelevant, at worst it had become a tame kitten on the world stage and too cowardly to take on the genuine threats to peace. Somewhere in this new limp-wristed version of the Nobel Peace Prize, human rights, freedom of speech, totalitarian states and fighting against oppression had all been forgotten.

After several years it appears that 2010 is a year where the Nobel Committee has been unafraid to award someone who is deserving of the prize: Liu Xiaobo. This is despite enormous criticism from the Chinese Communist rulers.

The Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement to the press, “Liu Xiaobo was found guilty of violating Chinese law and sentenced to prison by Chinese judicial organs. His actions run contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. By awarding the prize to this person, the Nobel committee has violated and blasphemed the award.”

Lui Xiaobo was issued the Prize at the same time that he is serving an 11 year sentence for subverting the country and authority. The arrest came after working to draft what is known as “Charter 8” that was a call for greater political freedom and human rights.

Specific demands for Charter 8 are:

  1. Amending the Constitution.
  2. Separation of powers.
  3. Legislative democracy.
  4. An independent judiciary.
  5. Public control of public servants.
  6. Guarantee of human rights.
  7. Election of public officials.
  8. Rural–urban equality.
  9. Freedom of association.
  10. Freedom of assembly.
  11. Freedom of expression.
  12. Freedom of religion.
  13. Civic education.
  14. Protection of private property.
  15. Financial and tax reform.
  16. Social security.
  17. Protection of the environment.
  18. A federated republic.
  19. Truth in reconciliation

Whilst many in the West take these issues for granted, we must be reminded that despite become a more liberal economy China is still a totalitarian state where such freedoms are scorned. Liu has had a long history of falling foul of Chinese Communist Authorities.

Prison terms for Liu Xiaobo

Prison term Reason
June 1989 – January 1991 Charged with spreading messages to instigate counterrevolutionary behaviour. Imprisoned in one of China’s most well-known maximum security prisons, Qincheng Prison, and discharged when he signed a “letter of repentance.”
May 1995 – January 1996 Being involved in democracy and human rights movement and voicing publicly the need to redress government’s wrongdoings in the student protest of 1989 Released after being jailed for six months.
October 1996 – October 1999 Charged with disturbing the social order Jailed in a labour education camp for three years.
December 2009–2020 Charged with spreading a message to subvert the country and authority Sentenced for 11 years and deprived of all political rights for two years.

In essence The Nobel Peace Prize has been issued to someone who actually deserves it and where it can possibly do the most good. Despite the howls of the totalitarian rulers of the one party state this award has help to restore the status of the Nobel Peace Prize as something that has meaning. Let us hope that the selecting committee have the courage to maintain this high standard.

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