Liu Xiaobo Could Win the Nobel Peace Prize, and He’d Be the Last to Know
Mr. Liu winning the Peace Prize from jail is a nightmare scenario for China’s ruling Communist Party, which has done its best to isolate the former university professor and his ideas, jailing for “inciting subversion of state power” in a sentence handed down last Dec. 25. It would also be a rare boost for China’s weak and divided democracy movement, which has been in retreat ever since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
But despite a remarkable warning from Beijing that a Nobel Prize for Mr. Liu could damage China-Norway ties, Mr. Liu was the prohibitive favourite to win the award as the hours ticked down before the official announcement. A Dublin-based online betting house has already declared Mr. Liu the winner, and started paying out prizes, after a surge in betting on Mr. Liu led the operators to conclude that “the Nobel cat is well and truly out of the bag.”
If that turns out to be the case, it would be a remarkable breach of form for the Nobel Committee, which is usually known for its extreme secrecy. Indeed, even as gamblers who bet on Mr. Liu were raking in their winnings, Nobel experts were pointing out that other frontrunners such as Sima Samar, an Afghan women’s rights activist, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, or Memorial, a Russian human rights organization, would just as worthy of the award as Mr. Liu. Hu Jia, another prominent Chinese dissident, is also among the rumoured nominees.
And China Beat interviews Jean-Philippe Béja of the Paris-based Centre for International Studies and Research, a friend of Liu’s:
JW: Were you surprised when it became clear how seriously his candidacy for this prize was being taken?
JPB: Yes quite, because in the course of the years, I have noticed that Westerners very rarely understand the value of Chinese intellectuals. But, of course, Central and Eastern Europeans are different, because they have gone through a comparable experience. Václav Havel perfectly understands the situation of Liu Xiaobo, and he knows the courage which is required to stand up as he always did.
…JW: Can you tell our readers something about Liu Xiaobo, as a political figure or simply as a person, since in a recent article in the Guardian you are described as one of his friends?
JPB: I admire Liu Xiaobo’s courage and determination. He is a very mild person, his analyses are always quite rational, and, for example, he has always refused to judge the political situation in function of his personal position. Let me explain. At the time he was followed everywhere by two or three plainclothes policemen, when they prevented him from leaving his home, even to buy food, he would acknowledge the progress that was accomplished, congratulating himself of the greater space for society to express its opinions. Personally, he likes discussions, he can be very tough and we often argued about how to analyse some political situations. But our disagreements never had any consequences on our friendship. Liu Xiaobo is a 东北人 (Northeasterner) and, despite his strong criticism of Chinese tradition, he has a deep sense of 义气 (loyalty).