On Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize
The awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese citizen, has drawn strong reactions both inside and outside China. This is a major event in modern Chinese history. It offers the prospect of a significant new advance for Chinese society in its peaceful transition toward democracy and constitutional government. In a spirit of responsibility toward China’s history and the promise in its future, we the undersigned wish to make these points:
1. The decision of the Nobel Committee to award this year’s prize to Liu Xiaobo is in full conformity with the principles of the prize and the criteria for its bestowal. In today’s world, peace is closely connected with human rights. Deprivation and devastation of life happens not only on battlefields in wars between nations; it also happens within single nations when tyrannical governments employ violence and abuse law. The praise that we have seen from around the world for the decision to award this year’s prize to a representative of China’s human rights movement shows what a wise and timely decision it was.
2. Liu Xiaobo is a splendid choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has consistently advocated non-violence in his quest to protect human rights and has confronted social injustice by arguing from reason. He has persevered in pursuing the goals of democracy and constitutional government and has set aside anger even toward those who persecute him. These virtues put his qualifications for the prize beyond doubt, and his actions and convictions can, in addition, serve as models for others in how to resolve political and social conflict.
3. In the days since the announcement of his prize, leaders in many nations, regions, and major world organizations have called upon the Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo. We agree. At the same time we call upon the authorities to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who are in detention for reasons such as their speech, their political views, or their religious beliefs. We ask that legal procedures aimed at freeing Liu Xiaobo be undertaken without delay, and that Liu and his wife be permitted to travel to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. Upon hearing the news of Liu Xiaobo’s prize, citizens at several locations in China gathered at restaurants to share their excitement over food and wine and to hold discussions, display banners, and distribute notices. Normal and healthy as these activities were, they met with harassment and repression from police. Some of the participants were interrogated, threatened, and escorted home; others were detained; still others, including Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia, have been placed under house arrest and held incommunicado. We call upon the police to cease these illegal actions forthwith and to immediately release the people who have been illegally detained.
5. We call upon the Chinese authorities to approach Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize with realism and reason. They should take note of the responses to the prize inside and outside China and see in these responses the currents in world thinking as well as the underlying preferences of our fellow citizens. China should join the mainstream of civilized humanity by embracing universal values. Such is the only route to becoming a “great nation” that is capable of playing a positive and responsible role on the world stage. We are convinced that any signs of improvement or goodwill from the government and its leaders will be met with understanding and support from the Chinese people and will be effective in moving Chinese society in a peaceful direction.
6. We call upon the Chinese authorities to make good on their oft-repeated promise to reform the political system. In a recent series of speeches, Premier Wen Jiabao has intimated a strong desire to promote political reform. We are ready to engage actively in such an effort. We expect our government to uphold the constitution of The People’s Republic of China as well as the Charter of the United Nations and other international agreements to which it has subscribed. This will require it to guarantee the rights of Chinese citizens as they work to bring about peaceful transition toward a society that will be, in fact and not just in name, a democracy and a nation of laws.
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More than 100 Chinese citizens have signed their names in support of this open letter.