Norway's one-fingered salute to China

The Nobel Peace Prize committee awards this year's prize to a Chinese dissident, and China responds

A year after the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee dealt President Obama a card he is struggling to play, it has proven itself again unafraid of taking on giants.

In what is an unquestionably inspired choice – unless you are the Chinese Communist Party apparently – the Nobel committee has focused world attention on the plight of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo by awarding him this year’s peace prize.

The Chinese authorities have thrown the sort of major hissy-fit they indulged in when the Dalai Lama was so honoured.

All they have achieved however is raise questions – again – about what they are so afraid of in true elephant and mouse fashion.

As with all bullies, China throws its economic weight around to make sure it gets its own way, from its role as the new colonials in Africa to its hiding behind an artificially low currency.  Chuck enough money at the capitalist world and there will be no questions about how criticism is stifled at home.  Well at least that’s the plan.

Now the Nobel committee has stood up to it, and China is very, very annoyed.

You have to wonder at the fury of the backlash…warning the Committee before the award that it should not continue as planned, hauling in the Norwegian Ambassador, and, surprise, surprise, racing to delete Liu Xiaobo from any domestic internet search.

All the people of China know about the incident is contained in a short news presenter read statement outlining their government’s anger at the audacity of the Nobel Committee to cross it…not quite in those words of course…and then, fade to black. Liu? Liu who?

In awarding the prize the Committee was acknowledging Liu’s long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China, and thereby linking human rights and peace.

The Committee knew very well that it was shining a most unwelcome spotlight on China, explaining that with China’s new economic and political status in the world come increased responsibilities and adherence to international agreements on political rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, of association, procession and demonstration. In its announcement the boys from Oslo were very clear that such freedoms have been distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.

And that of course is no news to Mr Liu and many other political prisoners. China can call them treasonous all its likes, but it is out of step with most of the world, and its response only makes that so much more evident.

Declaring that there will be repercussions for the Norwegian government over this is, well, stupid actually.

The Committee has nothing to do with the Norwegian government. Suggesting that the Norwegian government should interfere or suffer in bilateral trade deal currently under negotiation betrays more so the fundamental problem with China in the 21st century. Only repressive, authoritarian governments dictate to independent committees what they can and can not do.

Norway certainly does not fit that category. Its Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was one of the first out of the congratulations blocks, describing Liu as deserving of respect and a worthy recipient for defending freedom.

The PR guy within the CCP should be packing up his desk, particularly if he is the one who penned the laughable (were it not so serious) official response that by awarding the prize as it did, the Nobel committee has violated and blasphemed the award!

Violation is a word the administration is of course familiar with, and that’s why Liu is but one of many in the slammer for wanting basic human rights.

Liu was a key figure in the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, and has been detained many times for his pro democracy advocacy and sent to re-education camp for daring to call for the impeachment of former President Jiang Zemin.

What really got the Chinese hierarchy going though was the 2008 release of what is called ‘Charter 08’, which was a manifesto for reform. It was signed by hundreds of Chinese intellectuals, academics and writers, many of whom were also punished by being shipped off to remote universities or losing their jobs.

But they didn’t give up the fight…some dissidents even signing the letter supporting Liu’s Nobel nomination.

His award is therefore an award deserved by many including those who have fled China, but particularly those who are paying minute by minute for their convictions within China. That goes for the spouses and extended families as well.

When the committee awarded the 2009 prize to Obama, he needed it like a hole in the head, given he was yet to tick off anything concrete in the peace ledger, and of course was Commander in Chief of the largest armed force in the world.

His desperate efforts to get Middle East peace sorted are highly worthy, but the pre-emptive award has left him open to ridicule from political opponents. Sort of like ripping in to dessert before eating your broccoli.

Liu has certainly eaten his broccoli – metaphorically at least because goodness knows what passes for food where he currently languishes.

It is unlikely he will know about his award which is possibly not such a bad thing because it would mean he is not being subjected to further abuse for something that is way out of his control. Likewise Liu will not be aware of the growing number of governments around the world calling on China to take this opportunity to release him.

A tally of governments who don’t join that chorus will arguably be telling in terms of who’s afraid of the big red dragon.  

It is to be hoped the bully that has once again proven itself so afraid of the power of words, will control its temper where Liu is concerned, as with all those tech-savy young Chinese who have managed to thwart the media black-out and cyber censorship to express delight in China having its own Aung San Suu Kyi…or Mandela…or Dalai Lama, Tutu or Havel. China’s Liu is in grand and worthy company.  

Perhaps, if it wasn’t such a tacky suggestion, the Nobel committee could award itself next year for its award to Mr Liu and the subsequent world attention focused on the widespread and brutal repression of human rights by China’s regime. Well done.