Political dissident Liu Xiaobo will receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, the committee announced this past Friday.
Liu Xiaobo has spent years fighting for freedom and government accountability in China and has consequently been in and out of prison and labor camps for the past two decades. The writer and former professor of literature went on a hunger strike during the 1989 protests of Tiananmen Square and was imprisoned for “instigating counterrevoluntionary behavior.”
He is currently serving a strict 11 year prison sentence for co-writing and circulating Chapter 8, a petition calling for political reform and democracy. The manifesto was published in December 2008 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Two days before the publication, Liu was taken from his home and charged with “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power.”
Last month, a senior Chinese official warned the Norwegian Nobel Institute that awarding Liu the prize would affect relations between China and Norway. The government contends it has no dissidents; there are only people who break the laws. However Nobel chairman Thorbjoern Jagland contends that as China grows more powerful, its human rights record needs to be under greater scrutiny, and that turning a blind eye would only undermine the award’s merit. “We have to speak when others cannot speak,” he explains.
The Guardian reports that several major Chinese media outlets had their sections dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize removed. In Beijing, TV screens showing the BBC and CNN suddenly went blank when the prize recipient was announced. Even his wife Liu Xia, who earlier revealed that he was not even aware of his nomination since he is prohibited from accessing news of the outside world, was prevented from leaving her apartment to speak to reporters. She did however release a statement through a campaign group to express her gratitude. “It is a true honor for him and one for which I know he would say he is not worthy.”