Last month, an open letter was published signed by the Dalai Lama, Vaclav Havel and Desmond Tutu, among others. Addressed to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which assigns the prize, the text said, “Liu's committed advocacy on behalf of democracy in China is, above all, intended for the benefit of the Chinese people. But his courage and example may help to accelerate the dawn of the day when China's participation in international affairs is aided by the expertise and oversight of civil society groups”.
Liu Xiaobo, a well know university professor, over a year ago presented a petition (signed more than 300 people) to the Chinese government. Known as Charter 08, the document calls for the implementation of democracy and freedom in China. Respect for human rights, including religious freedom, is viewed as the only path to maintain the economic progress the country has achieved in recent decades and to correct the distortions caused by dictatorship, corruption, social unrest and ecological neglect. As a result of this, on 25 December of last year he was sentenced to 11 years for “inciting subversion of state power.”
Support for his candidacy is not limited to a few intellectuals. Pen international, which works for freedom of expression around the world, submitted its own application to the Nobel committee.
Pen American Centre president Kwame Appiah last week sent a nomination letter on behalf of Liu to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, noting his "distinguished and principled leadership in the area of human and political rights and freedom of expression".
"Honouring [Liu] with the Nobel Peace Prize would be a powerful way to underscore the fact that the rights that are enshrined in international human rights law—values that China has acknowledged and endorsed—are the non-negotiable entitlements of every man and woman," Appiah’s letter said.
Pen’s nomination letter was co-signed by well-known authors, including Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth and Ha Jin.
In addition, 40 Czech and 50 Slovak lawmakers answered Havel’s appeal and jointly called on the Nobel committee to assign the prize to Liu. The appeal’s initiator, Czech Senator Vondra, said that Liu has made a significant contribution to the values of peace and fraternity among nations that Nobel had in mind when he created the award more than a century ago.
Beijing of course disagrees. Relentlessly, it has continued to persecute activists who are close to Liu, and all the people who signed Charter 08.
When 200 leading dissidents called on the government to arrest them as it did with Liu, the authorities obliged but on their terms. In fact, police arrested He Jian, a charter signatory, and interned him at the Putuo Psychiatric Health Centre.