This past week, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway for his willingness to speak out against what he thinks are human rights violations by China. Last year he was imprisoned for “inciting subversion” after he drafted a charter calling for a multiparty democracy in China.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee released the statement that he is “the foremost symbol” of the human rights struggle in China. The Chinese government was angered by the committee’s selection and shared their frustrations surrounding the West’s disregard of their chosen form of government. The media in China has avoided the topic, leaving most citizens in the dark about the award given to one of their own, but the BBC has received some comment from a handful of citizens who have heard:

I think Western countries still view my country with prejudice. Maybe at the moment China is not as free as your country. But we can make decisions quickly which makes our government one of the most efficient in the world. Does anyone want China to become another India?
Sal, Panjin, Lianing Province, China

Having taught at the University of Guangxi in Guangxi Province, I can imagine what most of my second-year University students will say about the Nobel Prize just awarded to Mr Liu. They will think of it as one more proof of the West’s dislike of China’s culture and China’s way of life.
Robert, China

As an editor for an English language newspaper on the Chinese mainland, I can say that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo is going to cause a great many red faces in officialdom – and a quandary for the Chinese media. While most ordinary Chinese have not heard of Mr Liu (the media is forbidden from mentioning his name), the prominence of the award is such that even China’s strict media controls will be unable to prevent this news from circulating.

Really this is great news, it imposes a great pressure on the Chinese government. It demonstrates the huge consensus among the people in and outside China except the authoritarian governments. We only need time, maybe 10 years or 20. One day people will achieve this victory.
“Bob”, Guangzhou

His story never appears in books, news, forums or anywhere, except his sentence of 11 years in jail.
Hu, Beijing

I am a Chinese and I am so surprised to hear the news. But I cannot find anything about it in China.
Penn, Xuzhou

It is strange. In China, if you did a survey most would say this guy should be sent to the prison. If we followed his ideas, China would be unstable and that would be worse for most Chinese people. What do you think of the present situation in China? We have good economic situation and increasing living standard of the people. Is that not what the Norwegian people want? Or does the committee in Norway want a weak and backward China?
Jack, Shanghai

Every country has its own faith and culture. You Western countries shouldn’t look at us through your own eyes. We have our own faith and culture to follow. Since Liu Xiaobo is Chinese, he must follow Chinese rules. So he is not the human rights fighter and he doesn’t deserve the prize.
Penghong, Chengdu, Sichuan

What else can be more encouraging and touching to happen to the democracy in China? This is a beginning of a worldwide recognition of the striving democratic movement in China. The award will certainly bring more attention from the world on the democratic situation in China.
Hoien L Cadogan, Hong Kong, China

Although the Nobel Committee president claims that Liu Xiaobo is “the foremost symbol of the wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China” it is a crying shame he wasn’t awarded this prize last year before he was imprisoned. This would have generated more international awareness of his activism and levied more pressure on Beijing.
Stephen, Nanjing

It is my opinion that Liu Xiaobo is a hero indeed. I can’t say that I have been to China or that I can  condemn the country as wholly bad. The truth is that they are doing many things right as  their economy is thriving and the quality of life improving — but beyond that, in my mind every human being deserves the ability to be heard. No matter if they are male, female, adult, child, black, white or brown, religious or non-religious.

The Western world needs to look at this situation and to be thankful for the ability to speak out when we see injustice or speak out for a better world.

Sometimes as a citizen of the US, I fear that our voices are becoming a bit muted. It appears to me that we are being played by our government. Those in power seem to be more worried about keeping their jobs and status rather than closely looking at what the American people want and need most. The silly game of Republican vs. Democrat and Democrat vs. Republican is getting old.

Right now, I’m sitting in a cafe in Gothenburg, Sweden where citizens get to choose between six (6) viable political parties. And back at home, the same political games continue…pulling the fabric of our society to shreds. To me it appears that there is one party…that congress is the same on either side of the aisle and that social issues are used as a means to play on our emotions and to create division. And that our President is a pawn and that the Federal Reserve, banks and lobbyists his boss.

I hope that I am wrong, but…

We need to be so very careful that we don’t lose our voices. And, we need to be careful that when one speaks out revealing something that we didn’t know or are too fearful to admit (such as military failures, unhealthy alliances with countries that don’t have democracy’s best interest at heart, or embracing people of other religions), that we don’t call each other un-American or unpatriotic. A healthy society celebrates variety and difference of opinion — it also inspires healthy conversation.

We should celebrate our ability to speak out and to question authority.  Liu Xiaobo embodies the truth that we human beings need to stick up for one another, and that no government should have the power to control our every move or dictate our thoughts.

In closing, here  is an excerpted portion of “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement To The Court” which was delivered by Liu on December 23, 2009, after he had been sentenced to 11 years in prison. It was read by actress Liv Ullmann as part of the Nobel Prize ceremony:

I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom…I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who have monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities.
For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.

Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth.

Jen Engevik
Project BE Bold