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Wherefore The Nobel Peace Prize

Mr. Liu was convicted for “subversion of state power” after he co-authored a manifesto on human rights and political reform in China.

Originally published by VOA News, 12-14-2010



Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjoern Jagland looks down at the Nobel certificate and medal on the empty chair where this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo would have sat, as a portrait of Liu is seen in the background, during the ceremony at Oslo City Hall December 10, 2010.

When the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese government publicly protested.  The Laureate, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, is a “criminal who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for engaging in activities aimed at overthrowing the government.”   

Mr. Liu, a former literature professor and human rights activist, was convicted for “subversion of state power” after he co-authored Charter 08, a manifesto on human rights and political reform in China. The Charter proclaims that “the most fundamental principles of democracy are that people are sovereign, and that the people select their own government.”  To date, more than 10,000 people have signed the document.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to the person deemed to have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”  It is, said last year’s Laureate, President Barack Obama, in a written statement, “an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice.

“All of us have a responsibility to build a just peace that recognizes the inherent rights and dignity of human beings — a truth upheld within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said President Obama.  “In our own lives, our own countries, and in the world, the pursuit of a just peace remains incomplete, even as we strive for progress.”

In his statement congratulating Liu Xiaobo on winning the award, President Obama stated that “the rights of human beings are universal — they do not belong to one nation, region or faith.  America respects the unique culture and traditions of different countries.  We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty, and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want.  But Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law. “The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released immediately .  Today … we should redouble our efforts to advance universal values for all human beings.”