To see a note from the editor, click here.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More Than One Distortion

Chinese ardour over Liu Xiaobo's Nobel peace prize continues, with the China Daily website today airing the view that the award is 'politically distorted' (to read the full editorial, click here). Almost as soon as the Nobel committee had made its decision, China claimed that it had not acted in the spirit of Alfred Nobel's original reason for creating the prize.

Effectively, today's China Daily piece is a reiteration of these points, though they are written with more of a sense of a rational case rather than simply appearing as a knee-jerk reaction to the recent international praise for Liu's achievements. According to the state newspaper, Nobel conceived the peace prize to mark the effort of those working for world peace, through the convening of conferences and a constant striving for international and domestic friendship. As the article goes on to allege, today's Nobel committee (composed of members of Norway's parliament) has replaced this criteria with its own politicised agenda, making the award merely a “tool of some Western politicians” to further their own agenda.

Such claims are also reinforced by allusion to the case of the other Chinese individual to win the prize- the Dalai Lama. The move caused similar controversy, especially as the Tibetan leader is still considered a threat to the internal unity of the People's Republic.

It would be wrong to dismiss Chinese concerns out of hand as simply the desperate complaints of a regime feeling threatened by renewed talk about human rights in China. There is much more to the situation than that. The government has been joined in its protests by sections of the general public and some intellectuals (for a prime example, see a previous post on comments by Professor Zhang Weiwei). Western opinion often works on the assumption that everyone in the PRC supports the reform advocated by Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08, when in actuality the issue of political reform is a contentious one within China itself. This is not to say that the Nobel committee were not right to recognise the efforts of a key rights campaigner. However, those in the West who are criticising China's criticism need to realise that the Chinese democratic reform debate is not as clear cut as is popularly thought.

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