China's fury over Nobel Prize gong gives boost to activists
CHINA'S heavy-handed reaction to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to pro-democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo may have reaped some short-term rewards.
But although 19 nations have capitulated to pressure from Beijing to boycott today's ceremony where the recipient's place will be taken by an empty chair, human rights advocates yesterday predicted that the government's behaviour would ultimately help the Nobel committee to energise China's human rights movement.
So far the picture for activists in China has only become bleaker. Reliable reports from hundreds of people affected by the clampdown Beijing has put in place since news of Mr Liu's award was announced have reached Amnesty International.
"We know of 274 people who have been arrested, placed under house arrest, refused permission to travel or who are unable to go about their daily work and there may be many more," said Amnesty's China specialist Harriet Garland.
But the Nobel announcement has greatly raised morale in the Chinese pro-democracy community, re-energising the country's beleaguered campaigners
"Awarding the prize to Liu Xiaobo has had quite an electrifying effective on the human rights community," said Sophie Richardson, a China analyst with the lobby group Human Rights Watch, who is in Oslo for today's ceremony.
"It's so long since anyone has so evocatively and so firmly expressed opposition to the Chinese government's hostility to human rights. And that's been an enormous boost," she said.
Beijing further undermined its own position yesterday with the launch of a rival peace prize, the Confucius Prize, which appeared to descend into farce when a spokesman for the putative recipient, the former Taiwanese vice-president Lien Chan, claimed he had never heard of the prize and had no intention of collecting it.
China's high-octane reaction has underscored the very case that Liu Xiaobo was making in Charter 08, the document calling for gradual political reforms, which he co-authored in 2008, and which got him an 11-year jail sentence for subversion.
When the veteran of the 1989 pro-reform protest in Tiananmen Square was, for the fourth time, sentenced to prison in 2008, he said that he had been absolutely confident that he would be jailed -- and added: "I don't fear it. I see it as a necessary step in a journey." (© Independent News Service)