Nobel Peace Prize speech

Excerpts from speech by Nobel committee chairman in awarding honour to Liu Xiaobo.

Thorbjoern Jagland called for Liu Xiaobo to be released, saying he had done nothing wrong [Reuters]

The following are excerpts from Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland’s speech awarding jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the 2010 peace prize.

“We regret that the Laureate is not present here today. He is in isolation in a prison in northeast China. Nor can the Laureate’s wife Liu Xia or his closest relatives be here with us. No medal or diploma will therefore be presented here today.

This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate.

There have been a number of previous occasions when the Laureate has been prevented from attending. This has in fact been the case with several awards which have proved in the light of history to have been most significant and honourable.

There was a great deal of trouble in 1935, when the Committee gave the award to Carl von Ossietzky. Hitler was furious, and prohibited all Germans from accepting any Nobel Prize …
Ossietzky did not come to Oslo, and died a little over a year later.

There was considerable outrage in Moscow when Andrej Sakharov received his Prize in 1975. He, too, was prevented from receiving the award in person. He sent his wife.

The same thing happened to Lech Walesa in 1983. The Burmese authorities were furious when Aung San Suu Kyi received the Peace Prize in 1991.

Once again, the Laureate could not come to Oslo. In 2003, Shirin Ebadi received the Nobel Peace Prize. She came. Much could be said of the reaction of the Iranian authorities, but the Iranian Ambassador did in fact attend the ceremony.

The point of these awards has of course never been to offend anyone. The Nobel Committee’s intention has been to say something about the relationship between human rights, democracy and peace.

And it has been important to remind the world that the rights so widely enjoyed today were fought for and won by persons who took great risks. They did so for others. That is why Liu Xiaobo deserves our support.

Although none of the Committee’s members has ever met Liu, we feel that we know him. We have studied him closely over a long period of time.

On the 4th of June [1989] he and his friends tried to prevent a clash between the army and the students. He was only partially successful. Many lives were lost, most of them outside
Tiananmen Square.

Liu has told his wife that he would like this year’s Peace Prize to be dedicated to ‘the lost souls from the 4th of June’.

It is a pleasure for us to fulfil his wish.

There are scarcely any examples in world history of a great power achieving such rapid growth over such a long period of time as China … The USA’s national product is still three times greater than China’s, but while China is continuing its advance, the USA is in serious difficulties.

Economic success has lifted several hundred million Chinese out of poverty. For the reduction in the number of poor people in the world, China must be given the main credit.

We can to a certain degree say that China with its 1.3 billion people is carrying mankind’s fate on its shoulders. I

f the country proves capable of developing a social market economy with full civil rights, this will have a huge favourable impact on the world. If not, there is a danger of social and economic crises arising in the country, with negative consequences for us all.

Many will ask whether China’s weakness – for all the strength the country is currently showing – is not manifested in the need to imprison a man for eleven years merely for expressing his opinions on how his country should be governed.

This weakness finds clear expression in the sentence on Liu, where it is underlined as especially serious that he spread his opinions on the Internet. But those who fear technological
advances have every reason to fear the future. Information technology cannot be abolished. It will continue to open societies.

The answer from the Chinese authorities is to claim that this year’s Peace Prize humiliates China, and to give very derogatory descriptions of Liu. History shows many examples of political leaders playing on nationalist feelings and attempting to demonize holders of contrary opinions.

They soon become foreign agents. This has sometimes happened in the name of democracy and freedom, but almost always with a tragic outcome.

We recognise this in the rhetoric of the struggle against terrorism: ‘You are either for me or against me.’ Such undemocratic methods as torture and imprisonment without sentence have been used in the name of freedom. This has led to more polarisation of the world and harmed the fight against terrorism.

We congratulate Liu Xiaobo on the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010. His views will in the long run strengthen China. We extend to him and to China our very best wishes for the years ahead.”

Source: Reuters


Chinese laureate and jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo is represented by an empty chair at Nobel ceremony held in Oslo.

11 Dec 2010
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