Translation: What Travesty does the Award of the Nobel to Liu Xiao Bo Reveal?
So here goes the news again: Public Enemy Number One in China, Liu Xiao Bo, has been awarded the Nobel Prize! Not sure where that infamous title of Liu came from. But this latest Nobel prize must be giving people in the U.S. quite a laugh.
The award of a Nobel to Liu is certainly controversial. Allegedly, the Nobel committee itself was internally divided. But given Liu’s high profile conviction last year, this decision is not totally unexpected. I originally did not plan to write about Liu. However, given the renewed and widespread interest of Liu’s Nobel, I have decided to wade in my thoughts. Here is a translation of what a typical report in the West is like.
For people who are against the Chinese government, the award of Liu’s Nobel is great news. The Nobel not only represents a great boost to the morale of human rights activists around the world, but also brought shame to the Chinese Communist Party. Unfortunately, judging by the Chinese government’s strong adverse response, few expects there to be any political change anytime soon.
The Chinese government has decided to censor news of Liu’s winning of the Nobel. During the middle of routine broadcast programs of CNN and BCC programs, the screen went blank. Few uninitiated were thus able to learn about Liu’s prize.
The recognition and respect given by the Nobel to Liu has hit a sore spot in the Chinese government. First it was the Dalai Lama, now it is Liu. The Nobel has given both international recognition and prestige. For the Chinese government, it has created another diplomatic embarrassment and headache.
While censorship will not be successful in preventing people from learning about Liu, many people in China today don’t know about Liu. Who is this successor of President Obama – the previous Nobel Peace Laureate? Censorship may push discussion of Liu from the public spotlight, but it will not prevent people from discussing the truth of what Liu has revealed.
The prize has now boosted the morale of the signatories of Charter 08 – now probably numbering some ten thousand – but also lawyers fighting for justice and rule of law, and environmentalists throughout China.
The government has responded fiercely in opposition of the award. According to the government, Liu has broken the law and has been sentenced to prison by a court of law. To award the prize to such a person is totally against the principle of the Nobel. The award will stain the prize itself for a long time to come.
The Chinese Communist Party will fight hard to persevere
The recognition given to Liu should send to Chinese Communist Party a strong signal. The truth is obscenely clear: China is still a weak and backward country. It does not even observe Universal Human Rights.
Despite promises upon promises that political reforms will follow economic reforms, the party officials continue to take the position that basic principles of democratic elections, the independence of the judiciary, and freedom of speech are not fit for China.
The only reforms allowed are limited to reforms within the party, reforms that consolidate party power: fewer corruption, fewer government interferences, more efficiency.
For many human rights activists throughout the world and in China, last Friday was a rare day of celebration. Of course, no one dared to hope that change would arrive soon. After all, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest in Myanmar. The Dalai Lama remains exiled, unable to bring about any change for his Tibet.
Chinese leaders Hu and Wen have strongly objected to the Prize. They would predictably point to China’s growth, stability, and lifting of millions out of poverty – yet they have let a rights fighter like Liu sit in jail.
Alas, the prize may have come too late. The government has already dug in and is entrenched in upholding Liu’s excessive sentence. The travesty has little to do with what Liu did, but the excessive sentence he has to serve.
Ultimately the above perspective is to be expected. With their economies still in doldrums, many European nations have come to eye recent Chinese economic growth with jealousy. And the prize provides them an opportunity for self congratulations. China is a weak and backward country. They don’t respect human rights. When Westerners look at China today, their perspective begins with 19th century. First by guns and violence, later waving the flag of human rights, Westerners seem to want to suppress China at all costs. For them, it is not relevant whether Chinese people improve the circumstances that surround their daily livelihood. It is not important whether people are lifted out of poverty. Their ideological position seen to be torn from an anachronistic page from the cold war; even I, as someone who is typically critical of the government, feel manipulated and abused. Whether such attitudes stem from genuine misunderstandings or calculated conniving is hard to say. In the same breath, they light a fire to Chinese people’s genuine yearning for reform and douse it by calling Chinese people as “backward” and “brainwashed.” They pursue realist, zero-sum, geopolitical games under the empty rhetoric of “freedom” and “human rights.”
I believe most Chinese people in their heart understand what China has gone through to be where it is today. Westerners (including even many Chinese) have forgotten that China used to represent for the world a beacon of light – of a just, enlightened, harmonious power from the 16th – 18th century. But from the 19th century forward, with guns, steel, and cannons, Westerners soon came to regard China as backward. In the new game, it does not matter what China stands for. As long as China does not submit to the West, the West will never acknowledge China.
But what does China stand for? In the economic sphere, there is shallow capitalism. Politically, there is communism? You must be kidding. Communism as practiced today is already captured by special economic interest groups. The Chinese government has become the laughing stock of the world. The fact that it wields so little influence on the international stage is a direct result of its corrupted shying away from taking substantive political reforms. It knows only of censorship and control. It is so weak that it cannot take on simplistic and false ideologies such as “freedom.” It cannot taken on even second rate intellectuals such as Liu Xiao Bo. It must hide behind vague notions of stability and harmony. It concedes notions of “Civil Liberties” and “Universal Values” to be defined in terms of Western notions of “freedom” and “liberty.” Isn’t true universal right a government that can provide for the people? Chinese political and philosophical thought has a long and enlightened history. It complements Western political thoughts well. Yet today’s politicians have botched things up. They have forgotten that politicians are supposed to be just, enlightened, and compassionate. They are supposed to serve the people. How can our leaders talk about justice, virtue, and compassion when they are neither just, virtuous, nor compassionate?
There is no denying that the Nobel for Liu has hit a raw nerve for the government. But the prize hurts not because of Liu’s empty call for “freedom” or “human rights,” but because of the dilapidated state and impotence of Chinese political thought in this early period of the 21st century. Our dilapidation can be seen everywhere: from our taking anti-Chinese writings on facebook and youtube as basic political teaching materials, to our artists relying on movies such as those about Yi He Yuan to capture their imagination of the Chinese Renaissance, to our artists finding expressions only through one dimensional vocabularies of passion and oppression, to our college students and farmers relying on money to assess their self worth, to our local officials and police making their careers at the expense of ordinary people, to the media outdoing each other in a relentless pursuit of sensationalism and mind-numbing entertainment. Our dilapidated state is the real indictment against our current state of affairs.
True enlightenment and political wisdom can be found in our bookstores, our libraries, the great human traditions from all around the world. But from our leaders to the most ordinary of our citizens, no one appears to care about these things in their daily life. This is the great travesty of Chinese society as revealed by Liu’s Nobel prize.
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