Friday, December 10, 2010

Liu Xiaobo statement re The Internet

(This is a reprint of a previously-published essay by Liu Xiaobo.)

Laureate Liu: The internet is God's present

Today there are more than 100 million internet users in China. The Chinese Government is ambivalent towards it. On the one hand, the internet is a tool to make money. On the other, the Communist dictatorship is afraid of freedom of expression.

The internet has brought about the awakening of ideas among the Chinese. This worries the Government, which has placed great importance on blocking the internet to exert ideological control.

In October 1999 I finished three years of jail and returned home. There was a computer there and it seemed that every visiting friend was telling me to use it. I tried a few times but felt that I could not write anything while facing a machine and insisted on writing with a fountain pen. Slowly, under the patient persuasion and guidance of my friends, I got familiar with it and cannot leave it now. As someone who writes for a living, and as someone who participated in the 1989 democracy movement, my gratitude towards the internet cannot be easily expressed.

My first essay on the computer took a week to do - I was ready to abandon it several times. Under the encouragement of my friends, I finished it. For the first time, I sent an article by e-mail. Several hours later I received the reply from the editor. This made me aware of the magic of the internet.

With the censorship here, my essays can only be published overseas. Before using the computer, my handwritten essays were difficult to correct and the cost of sending them was high. To avoid the articles being intercepted, I often went from the west side of the city to the east side where I had a foreign friend who owned a fax machine.

The internet has made it easier to obtain information, contact the outside world and submit articles to overseas media. It is like a super-engine that makes my writing spring out of a well. The internet is an information channel that the Chinese dictators cannot fully censor, allowing people to speak and communicate, and it offers a platform for spontaneous organisation.

Open letters signed by individuals or groups are an important way for civilians to resist dictatorship and fight for freedom. The open letter from Vaclav Havel to the Czech dictator Husak was a classic of civil opposition to dictatorship.

Fang Lizhi, a famous dissident, wrote an open letter to Deng Xiaoping, China's leader, to ask for the release of the political prisoner Wei Jingsheng. This was followed by two open letters, signed by 33 and 45 people. These three open letters were regarded as the prelude to the 1989 democracy movement, when open letters rose up like bamboo shoots after rain to support the protesting students.

Back then it took a lot of time and resources to organise an open letter. Preparations began a month before; organisers had to be found to look up the people. We talked about the content of the letter, the phrasing, the timing, and it took several days to reach consensus. Afterwards, we had to find a place to typeset the handwritten open letter and then make several copies. After proofing the document, the most time-consuming thing was to collect the signatures. Since the government was monitoring the telephones of sensitive people, we had to ride our bicycles in all directions of Beijing.

In an era without the internet, it was impossible to collect the signatures of several hundred people, and it was also impossible to disseminate the news rapidly all over the world. At the time, the influence of and the participation in letter-writing campaigns were all quite limited. We worked for many days, and in the end we would only get a few dozen people to sign. The letter-signing movements in this new era have made a quantum leap.

The ease, openness and freedom of the internet has caused public opinion to become very lively in recent years. The Government can control the press and television, but it cannot control the internet. The scandals that are censored in the traditional media are disseminated through the internet. The Government now has to release information and officials may have to publicly apologise.

The first senior official to apologise was in 2001 when Zhu Rongji, who was then the Premier, apologised for an explosion in a school that caused the death of 41 people. At the same time, under the impact of internet opinion, the authorities had to punish officials - for Sars, mining accidents and the contamination of the Songhua River.

The internet has the extraordinary ability to create stars. Not only can it produce entertainment stars, it can also create “truth-speaking heroes”. It has allowed a new generation of intellectuals to emerge and created folk heroes such as the military doctor Jiang Yanyong (who publicly warned about the threat of Sars and forced the Government to take action).

Chinese Christians say that although the Chinese lack any sense of religion, their God will not forsake the suffering Chinese people. The internet is God's present to China. It is the best tool for the Chinese people in their project to cast off slavery and strive for freedom.

Barack Obama statement on Liu Xiaobo

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2010

Statement by the President on the Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize

One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.

All of us have a responsibility to build a just peace that recognizes the inherent rights and dignity of human beings – a truth upheld within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In our own lives, our own countries, and in the world, the pursuit of a just peace remains incomplete, even as we strive for progress. This past year saw the release of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, even as the Burmese people continue to be denied the democracy that they deserve. Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta has continued his tireless work to build a free and prosperous East Timor, having made the transition from dissident to President. And this past year saw the retirement of Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, whose own career demonstrates the universal power of freedom and justice to overcome extraordinary obstacles.

The rights of human beings are universal – they do not belong to one nation, region or faith. America respects the unique culture and traditions of different countries. We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty, and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want. But Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law. The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible. I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year. Today, on what is also International Human Rights Day, we should redouble our efforts to advance universal values for all human beings.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

UN panned for snubbing Liu Xiaobo

From The Telegraph:

By Max Wind-Cowie 12:36PM GMT 08 Dec 2010

For the first time since 1936, the Nobel peace Prize winner will be represented by an empty chair on Friday. Why? Because China has succeeded where no other state – bar the Nazi regime in Germany all those years ago – has. They have prevented either this year’s winner, Liu Xiaobo, or any member of his family from traveling to Oslo to accept the prize.

The Nobel Committee has, rightly, come in for some flak over the last few years. Awarding the prize to Al Gore – for jetting around the world arguing that people shouldn’t, er, jet around the world – and to President Obama were demeaning to the prize and to its purpose. But this year they got it right. China’s economic reforms are, in the long-term, meaningless without political liberalisation to empower its population.

Many, many Chinese are waking up to that simple fact; and Liu Xiaobo represents them, their hopes and their continued oppression at the hands of their own Government. In awarding him the prize, the Nobel Committee highlighted his sacrifice and the struggle of the Chinese people for freedom. But this award goes beyond that – it has also, unintentionally, served to highlight the hypocrisy of world bodies that mouth platitudes about human rights while ignoring Beijing’s brutality.

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