China's Nobel Own-Goal

A clearly worried China has scored an own-goal with its ridiculous and abusive reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to its national 'dissident' Liu Xiaobo. The embarrassment should last for some time.

The empty chair in Oslo spoke a volume the Chinese Communist-ish government could never silence.

The Democracy activist and latest laureate Liu Xiaobo missed his big day on the world stage because he is languishing in a prison in north-western China. He’s there on trumped up charges over freedom of speech embodied in the so-called ‘Charter 08’ which he penned as a way of calling for broad political and human rights reforms.

When his award was announced a few weeks ago the CCP went ballistic.

Now that the ceremony has been held, the Chinese leadership has exposed itself as the master of the own-goal.

This is for a number of reasons.

China completely closed down any media coverage of the award, Liu’s wife has ‘disappeared’, as have a number of Liu’s colleagues, no-one was permitted to leave China to accept the award on Liu’s behalf, and tremendous diplomatic pressure was put on other nations to boycott the Oslo ceremony.

Perhaps the most ridiculous, even childish response was the hurried organization of the Confucius Peace Prize. No-one has ever heard of it before because it was cobbled together in order to take the focus off the Nobel! While the inaugural winner was Lien Chan, a China-friendly Taiwanese politician, the only winner really was intended to be China itself.

Runners-up were apparently Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela and Mahmoud Abbas. How absolutely gutted they will all be to know they have been pipped at the real peace prize post!

How horrified these three men will be to have had their good names associated with such cynical manipulation of the quest for world peace.

Chinahas called the awarding of the Nobel to Liu as an obscenity. It has called the Nobel committee a bunch of clowns making farcical decisions, and in a strange coincidence in timing, the Nobel Committee’s website has been subjected to cyber attack. While cyber wars and hacksters are flavour of the day thanks to planet Wikileaks, the Nobel Committee has had nothing to do with that. Its hacks remain curious indeed.

The own goal is that when all these factors are combined, China has called world attention to itself and once again proven the old adage about the pen being mightier than the sword.

Wind back and imagine if Chinahad not put Liu in the can for 11 years for advocating freedom of speech. While the Nobel Committee insists it has been aware of Liu’s dedication to the cause of human rights since his days as a Tiananmen Square protester, it is arguable as to whether he would have been awarded this week. After all why was he not so recognised back in the days of the crackdown on Chinese citizens who dared to face the tanks? China’s own attempts to quash him have made him a hero.

Liu’s status was then hugely inflated by China’s refusal to allow anyone to travel to Oslo to accept his award. Had his wife gone it would have been a story, and possibly one with a little positive spin for China.

But no. China doesn’t know when to stop digging in its human rights abuse hole.

It came up with its own silly award, but then it decided to make sure the world knew it sided with other countries who feel free to flagrantly breach human rights – namely it convinced administrations such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran to stay away from the Oslo ceremony.

Take a look back into the Nobel archives and the other three laureates who were not able to pick up their own prizes were those subjected to imprisonment by Nazi, Soviet and Burmese regimes. Like Chinahas done by dragging Confucius into the muck, Hitler also organized a National Prize as an alternative to the Nobel because it was angry German journalist Carl von Ossietzky was made a Nobel laureate.

That’s a nice neighbourhood to be playing in China.

China should by now have fathomed that every time a high level Chinese politician or diplomat fronts up to a press conference with another foreign leader or diplomat, any self-respecting press corps will ask about the latest laureate. That should drag out the embarrassment for quite some time - hopefully.

Add to that is the prescient observation from the Daily Telegraph’s Peter Foster that China’s intransigence has at a stroke wiped out much of the work achieved by its Olympic Games, student-exchange programmes, English language and media outlets.

China’s actions have indeed, and once again, made the job of diplomacy with it that much harder, and it is obvious other nations have put some thought in to showing their frustration with the authoritarian regime, while still trying to prod them on human rights. Obama’s declaration that Liu’s prize is much more important and deserving than Obama’s own is a strong statement, as was his call for Liu to be released as soon as possible because he is only espousing universal values. Obama was represented in Oslo at ambassadorial level. Present but measured.

China’s own goal has ensured the Nobel Prize will for many years to come, be associated with an empty chair and full prison cells.

The Nobel Committee says it is committed to forever linking peace and human rights, which essentially means working to alter the empty-chair-full-prison imbalance.

Liu’s award fits within that frame, and while China may try to belittle the Norwegian Committee and that small and principled country, it has only succeeded in belittling itself.

Its anger has slapped its own face and those of its 1.3 billion citizens whom it treats like errant children because it fears their freedom will equal the demise of its own privilege as the ruling elite. No surprises, but well worth acknowledging the own-goal.