Politics of the Prize

When the Nobel Committee declared that the Nobel Peace Prize 2010 was to be awarded to Liu Xiaobo “for his non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”, it sent a wave of exhilaration across the globe in recognition of the Committee’s decision, somewhat curing the injury of disparagement and vilification to the group for conferring it to Barack Obama last year. The Committee in its run often known for some controversial picks from Henry Kissinger to Yasser Arafat and Barack Obama, while leaving out deserving candidates such as Mahatma Gandhi and Ken Saro-Wiwa.

However, this time it came as a hard slap on the face of the Chinese Government, and its immediate response was the suspension of the upcoming Shanghai Meeting with a Norwegian minister in a knee-jerk reaction against awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. Earlier Beijing had warned Oslo that awarding the prize to the imprisoned dissent would have serious consequences to their bilateral relations as longstanding trade partners (Norway is Europe’s biggest exporter of oil and gas). As an independent organization, the Nobel Committee has no reason to be daunted by such warnings or care for any repercussion on the diplomatic relations of the two countries.

Consequently, again, again because this is the third time China is coming into the spotlight, exposing the regime’s infringement of basic human rights in relation to the Nobel Prize. First, in 1989 when the Dalai Lama was awarded the prize following the tragic June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre, and the second in 2000 when the exiled Chinese writer Gao Xingjian was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. This time again it has forced China to jump on the universal bandwagon where it is to defend its legitimacy over curbing the rights of dissents like Liu against the critics of the international community, while leaving no stone unturned in its effort to prelude the news from its own people.

As known for its dictatorial Internet policing, the search engines are carefully filtered by the authorities of any reference to Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize, thereby blanketing the entire nation, while a small segment of net-savvy citizens are accessing the information ’illegally’. China’s condemnation of the prize is somewhat extreme as it claims that the Nobel Prize for Liu is a ’blasphemy’ and an ’insult’ to the Chinese people and is an imposition of Western values on China. When a group of activists were heading toward a restaurant for a celebratory meal with portraits of Liu, the gathering was immediately dismissed by the police. Such expressions of joy and triumph have no room for public display in today’s China except in private celebrations for those who know about the Nobel Prize, while millions remain ignorant being deprived of their right to information.

The Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo has corollary implications to which I think many international critics and observers are overestimating them by constructing rather arbitrary projections for the start of a change in China with the Nobel Prize as a wakeup call for it, while many international figures including the Dalai Lama and Vaclav Havel were congratulating Liu Xiaobo for winning the prize. However the optimism attached to the prize has intensified the politics of the prize, which is unintentionally causing alienation of Liu from his prize due to hysterical politicization from both the international community and the Chinese government. Not surprisingly, when the news reached Liu last Sunday from his wife’s visit, he cried and said that “this is for the lost souls of June 4th.”

While the Chinese government desperately tries to sweep the news under the rug and shield the country from such criticisms lest it might give birth to a new Tiananmen rebellion, the international community and human rights organizations try to reinforce their advocacy for fundamental human rights in China as Liu has become a touchstone for his fellow citizens in the march for freedom and democracy.

Coincidentally, some Tibetans in their diaspora sensed the prize as a possible start to resolve their longstanding conflict, with the assumption that a change in China would bring a favorable climate to solve the issue of Tibet and thereby fervently involve in the politics of the prize. However, it should be noted and forewarned that a democracy in China by no means will gain Tibet what it is asking for, not even Middle-Pathists’ humble request. Such a sweeping yet a decisive statement may reflect this writer’s political naivete, but definitely Tibetans been frenzied for a democratic China is a huge miscalculation if not wishful thinking on a wing and a prayer.

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