Nobel Prize: China remains uncompromising

2010-10-09 22:51

  • Chinese Culture
    Read all you need to know about the Chinese culture in this insightful title. Now R447.00
    buy now

Beijing - The euphoria overseas and in some domestic circles at dissident Liu Xiaobo's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize has failed to mask deeper unease that his victory will likely bring little change in Communist Party-ruled China.

Liu, 54, has been a thorn in the government's side since 1989 when he joined student protesters on a hunger strike days before the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement and has been in and out of jail ever since.

Yet in today's booming and bustling Beijing - with its luxury boutiques, well-dressed residents and sleek new subway lines - the heady days of 1989 are a distant memory and public discussion is taboo. Few people know who Liu is.

"I've never heard of him," said one Beijing businessman waving his hand dismissively, who gave his family name as Han, in comments typical of those heard on the street when Liu's name is mentioned. "I'm too busy to watch television."

The award was largely ignored by Chinese media, apart from a few brief newspaper articles carrying the Foreign Ministry's condemnation of the decision as an "obscenity".

The popular tabloid the Global Times, however, published an angry commentary saying the Nobel Peace Prize was in danger of becoming "a political tool of the West".

"It is disrespectful to the majority of Chinese and another arrogant display of Western ideology," it wrote of the award.

Social demands

The government's grip on power is as tight as ever, and it has shown no signs of relaxing its stance towards the small band of Chinese "rights defenders" who continue to mount seemingly futile legal challenges against the Party.

Many signers of the "Charter 08" petition which called for sweeping political reforms have either been locked away, put under house arrest or otherwise harassed. Perhaps the most famous of whom is Liu, jailed last Christmas Day for 11 years.

"Is China going to bow to international opprobrium? I think it very unlikely," said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher on China with Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group.

"But the prize will add fuel to continued pressure on the Party to adapt further to respond to social demands, which now include a functioning legal system, rule of law, greater freedom of expression and freer media."

Where once human rights were a hot topic of discussion during meetings between Chinese leaders and their counterparts in the West, these days the lure of China's red hot economy amid a global downturn has muted criticism.

"Liu's winning will put more of an international spotlight on the situation in China which has been lacking and that's good," Xinna, the wife of imprisoned ethnic Mongolian rights activist Hada, told Reuters from the northwestern city of Hohhot.

"But controls on us are tougher than even a few years ago. Things I could once read on the Internet are no longer accessible," she added, speaking by telephone.

Political reform

"The restriction on the flow of information means that some activists I know had never heard of Liu until yesterday. This does not give me much hope going forward," said Xinna, whose husband is one of China's longest-serving political prisoners.

The mobile telephone of Liu's wife, Liu Xia, was turned off on Saturday. She told Reuters on Friday that the police were forcing her out of town to prevent her from talking to reporters, and that she was being taken to see her husband in jail.

There was a heavy security presence outside Liu's jail in the northeastern city of Jinzhou, some 350 km (220 miles) from Beijing, with police searching passing cars and preventing people getting close to the drab detention buildings.

Still, some long-time activists see a glimmer of hope, pointing to comments by Premier Wen Jiabao in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen in August calling for political reform to safeguard the country's economic health.

"If Wen is clever, he should use Liu's winning of the peace prize to exert pressure on the conservative faction in the Party," human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters.

"There are those who think that the leadership does not speak with one voice on this issue. Liu's prize could act as a starting point for reform."

Read more on:    liu xiaobo  |  china  |  nobel peace prize

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


The rich will pay - Mpofu

The EFF in Gauteng will focus all its energy on improving the lives of the poor, the party's premier candidate Dali Mpofu says.


Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
  • Tuesday Century City - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Ratanga Road Southbound
    ROADWORKS - lane closure between Ocean Spirit Avenue and Century Boulevard (until mid April)
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Spine Road
    ROAD CLOSED between Weltevreden Drive and Seafarer Drive due to roadworks (until mid April)
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Y

The Samsung Y (Young) is tiny but powerful with Android...

From R1499.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be more sensitive today and can be influenced easily by the energies around you. Try not to be swayed too much by more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.