On Human Rights Day – Friday, December 10 – Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his unrelenting fight for fundamental freedoms and human rights in China.
The only problem was that he was not present to receive his award. For daring to speak out against the Chinese government, he was barred from accepting this award in Oslo, Norway. Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for urging sweeping changes to Beijing’s one-party communist political system.
The Empty Chair
Instead, the blue-and-white upholstered chair reserved for him was empty, and the honoree’s words were spoken by the Norwegian actress Liv Ullman.
It was the first time in 74 years that the prestigious $1.4 million award was not accepted in person.
Standing Ovation For The Absent Liu Xiaobo
From The Washington Post:
“We regret that the laureate is not present. He is in isolation in a prison in northeastern China,” Nobel committee chairman Torbjorn Jagland said during the ceremony at Oslo’s stately, modernist City Hall. He added, “This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate.”
The audience of well over 1,000 dignitaries, diplomats and officials responded with sustained applause and a standing ovation. An oversize portrait of Liu, 54, had been hung on the stage. His eyes, behind his trademark spectacles, appeared to take in the proceedings.
“Liu has only exercised his civil rights. He has not done anything wrong,” Jagland said. “He must be released.” Moments later, Jagland placed the medal and certificate normally awarded to the laureate in the empty chair upon the stage, triggering another ovation.
At the point in the ceremony where the honoree or a close relative would normally speak, Ullmann read from Liu’s final statement before being sentenced to 11 years in jail for political incitement.
“And now, I have once again been shoved into the dock by the enemy mentality of the regime,” Liu said on Dec. 23, 2009. “But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by [my] convictions. … I have no enemies, and no hatred.”
Blackout In China
None of this was heard in China, where both CNN and BBC TV channels went black at 8 pm local time for nearly an hour, exactly when the Oslo ceremony was taking place. Security outside Liu’s apartment in Beijing was heavy, and several dozen journalists were pushed into a cordoned-off area.
Meanwhile on Thursday, a day ahead of the Nobel ceremony, China launched its most severe crackdown on activists and dissidents in recent years. Scores of people were placed under house arrest or surveillance, had communications cut off and were forced to leave the capital or prevented from traveling abroad.
We agree with Jagland’s declaration: “He has not done anything wrong. He must be released.”
Please Take Action Now! Click here to sign our petition urging the Chinese government to free Liu Xiaobo.
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