By Matt Browner-Hamlin
Originally published in The Huffington Post
Oct. 8, 2010 - Today jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is really an incredible statement by the Nobel Committee and a great push for democracy and human rights in China. Liu Xiaobo is one of China's most prominent democracy and rights advocates, currently serving an 11 year prison term for calling for democracy, rights and a multi-party system in Charter 08. Charter 08 was initially signed by a small group of intellectuals and dissidents, though quickly signed by more than 2,000 citizens shortly after publication. It was intended to be a road map for how political change could safely occur in China.
Liu also stands out because of his strong support for Tibet and the Tibetan Government in Exile's position of autonomy. In 2000, he authored an essay titled "The Right of Self-government," which supported the Dalai Lama's push for Tibetan autonomy (Chinese version, English translation). Obviously this did not win him many friends in the Chinese government. Liu has also put forward a specific plan for improving the situation in Tibet, authored with Wang Lixiong, "Twelve Suggestions on Dealing with the Tibetan Situation." It was written just after the start of the March 2008 national uprising in Tibet, at a time when tensions were high and a massive crackdown against Tibetans was beginning. The article included in the suggestions:
1. At present the one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity. We call for such propaganda to be stopped.
Liu has even been a strong supporter of and advocate for Woeser, Tibet's most famous poet and political dissident. This essay (Chinese version, English translation) defends one of her banned books and includes strong calls for freedom of thought and religion in China and Tibet. Again, these are not actions which made Liu popular with the Chinese government.
As much as today's award is a great step in the cause of democracy and human rights in China, it has not yet changed the Chinese government. This is being reported on Twitter:
Wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo says police forcing her to leave Beijing: 'They want to distance me from the media'
Today is a great day in the cause of freedom and human rights. People often ask me whether or not freedom can ever come for Tibetans. I've always believed that for change to occur in Tibet, there must be change in China first. Liu Xiaobo is one of the leading advocates for democracy in China whose work makes the very possibility of a resolution to the Tibet question a likelihood. It is dissidents like Liu, Wang Lixiong, and blogger Han Han who are going to bring meaningful political change in China, a likely precondition to freedom in Tibet. I can't think of anyone more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Liu Xiaobo, a truly courageous man of principle whose belief in democracy and freedom has the power to shake one of the largest countries in the world to its core.