October 11, 2010

Chinese fury over Nobel to Liu Xiaobo continues to rise


Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo

To most of the world, last Friday’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the jailed dissident writer and literature professor Liu Xiaobo was, as the New York Times termed it in its report, “an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s authoritarian leaders.”

Turns out those leaders don’t take to rebuke too well. As a story in the Guardian by Tania Branigan reports,

The announcement provoked a furious reaction from Chinese authorities, who warned that the decision would hurt relations with Norway.

“Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Awarding the peace prize to Liu “runs completely counter to the principle of the prize and is also a blasphemy to the peace prize”, the statement said.

As a Reuters wire story by Chris Buckley added, state-run newspapers called the award an “obscenity” and said it showed, as Buckley summarized, that “the West cannot stomach the idea of China’s rise.” As one paper put it, “The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to ‘dissident’ Liu Xiaobo was nothing more than another expression of this prejudice, and behind it lies an extraordinary terror of China’s rise and the Chinese model.”

Meanwhile police broke up a banquet organized to celebrate the news of their countryman, says another Times report, arresting “two dozen bloggers, rights lawyers and academics” at they arrived at a restaurant in Beijing.

Despite a surprising plea from President Obama in which, as an MSNBC report notes, he called on the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo “as soon as possible,” things ratcheted up another notch yesterday when Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest.

The arrest came after she was allowed to visit her husband in his prison cell for one hour. According to a New York Times report by Sharon LaFraniere, Liu Xia “said her husband had told her, ‘This is for the lost souls of June 4th,’ and then was moved to tears.” The reference is to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators were killed by Chinese troops.

After the meeting, according to the Times, Liu Xia “was then escorted back to Beijing and placed under house arrest … In Beijing, Ms. Liu’s telephone and Internet communication has been cut off and state security officers are not allowing her to contact friends or the media, the statement said. Nor can she leave her house except in a police car ….”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives