Zhang Minchang: Liu Xiaobo Wins the Nobel Peace Prize: A Victory for Universal Values*!
From blogger Zhang Minchang (张民昌), translated by CDT:
On the afternoon of October 8th, 2010, a friend suddenly called me on the phone to say that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to Mr. Liu Xiaobo.
Thereafter, I received countless phone calls all announcing this same news. At first I couldn’t confirm that the news was true, but then a friend called and explained that the reason he was calling was because his text messages about Liu Xiaobo were being blocked. Wow! Based on this I knew that Liu Xiaobo had definitely been awarded the Nobel Prize! In this country a lot of things are silly and backward like this.
Because of this, the way I’ve come to think is also in reverse; it’s become a habit.
Everyone was so excited. One by one the calls would come in, and again and again I would feel happy. Among those who called me were laborers, migrant workers, intellectuals, businesspeople, civil servants, demobilized military personnel, etc., etc. I hear that people let off firecrackers. I could just imagine ebullient Chinese people, hearts filled with emotion, rushing to tell each other the news.
Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize! What a victory for universal values!
Conferring the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese citizen is an affirmation to the Chinese people who have desired a free democratic system, and it is an affirmation to the noble men and women who have worked tirelessly to achieve this!
The first time I heard Liu Xiaobo’s name was in the early summer, late spring of 1989.
On June 3rd, on that bloody Tiananmen night, I heard the news that he had rushed back from America where he was lecturing. Then I learned that with great enthusiasm he had organized a 48-hour hunger strike and sit-in in front of the Monument [to the People’s Heroes] with Zhou Duo** a volunteer with Sitong Company, Gao Xin***, and Hou Dejian, a famous Taiwanese rock star. The hunger strike and sit-in were meant to give support to the patriotic students [who were protesting]. Later, they were called, “the Four Junzis† of Tiananmen.”
In the early hours of June 4th, the area around the square was filled with gunfire. In this life and death situation, in the face of bloodthirsty tanks, machine gun fire, bayonets and imminent slaughter, the Four Junzis summoned great wisdom and courage. They went forward and began talks with the soldiers who had entered the square. After repeated attempts, the soldiers finally agreed to provide the students a way out of the square. Because of this, the Four Junzis protected the lives of nearly ten thousand students and others in the square. This was truly a remarkable achievement.
Thereafter, the authorities not only failed to thank them, they went so far as to call them “backstage manipulators.”
The next year, tensions were still running high in Beijing and people would ask when greeting each other whether any unfortunate thing had befallen them recently. At that time Liu Xiaobo had been given a sentence of several years and was in prison.
Liu Xiaobo, a literature Ph.D. and a scholar, really had no idea how to make a living after being released from prison and stripped of his government employment††. Although I did not understand it at the time he must have gone through tremendous difficulties then.
In recent years I would occasionally read political commentary and editorials by Liu Xiaobo. I could tell that he was still deeply concerned for the country and its people. He was still opposed to violence and to tyranny. He still raised his voice on behalf of the people and on behalf of democracy as he argued the case for reforming politics and for reforming the economy. His articles advocated “non-violence” and “societal reform.” He raised his voice on behalf of the Chinese people for free speech, a free press, and human rights. His writings were increasingly rational, peaceful, comprehensive, thorough, and even constructive. Liu Xiaobo was truly someone who followed the adage that “every common person has responsibility for the country’s rise or fall.”
In 2008, the appearance of Charter ’08 gave Liu Xiaobo and large numbers of those who were pursuing freedom and democracy a goal worth fighting for. Although the document had many imperfections and shortcomings, it followed the general will of the people and earned the people’s admiration for the courage of its promulgators.
However, it was Liu Xiaobo who sacrificed himself because of this. Convicted by an autocratic court to an eleven year sentence, Liu Xiaobo began his third imprisonment.
Today, we are grateful that the Nobel Peace Prize was not swayed by those with power and authority!
We are grateful to the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee!
At this time “great scholars” who are propped up by those with power and authority are singing the praises of “the Chinese model.” The Nobel Prize has been a resounding blow to this materialistic, filthy, anti-human rights, immoral, unconstitutional, and secretive “Chinese model.”
This self-righteous, bloody, corrupt, elitist “Chinese model” that looks so brilliant on its surface should have been shelved long ago.
The goal of this so-called “Chinese model” is to “develop” to the point where 70% of the country’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of less than 1% of the population. The low-wage population has not received any benefit from this economic development. A few big indicators of this are: people are unable to attend school, see a doctor, or buy a house. They can’t afford to live and they can’t afford to die. These great weights are pressing down on the Chinese people and are becoming increasingly heavy. There are also taxes, perhaps the heaviest weight borne by people and also the monopolization of businesses by those with power and authority, etc., etc……
There have been coal disasters, brick scandals, AIDS scandals, melamine contamination scandals. Now there are forcible evictions, forcible housing demolitions, blood, tears, self-immolation……Where in this “Chinese model” that is bent on plundering the wealth of the people, are the traditional values of benevolence and virtue? Where are the universal values of justice and morality?
In 1980, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from the former Soviet Union, physicist Andrei Sakharov stated: “the strength of an autocratic state is not related to the happiness of its people. That is because the autocratic powers must find ways to monopolize the nation’s resources and keep these resources controlled firmly in its grasp so as to maintain its rule. In other words, in an autocratic system, the people are unable to share in the benefits brought by the increasing strength of the country. These benefits are all swallowed up by autocratic groups and are used to combat the people’s latent resistance. A strong autocratic government only means that the autocratic powers are strong and does not mean that the people have become strong.”
That Liu Xiaobo should win the Nobel Peace Prize is the will of the people and is a recognition well deserved. Liu Xiaobo’s winning of the Nobel Prize is a victory for universal values!
We are grateful that the Nobel Peace Prize was not swayed by those with power and authority!
We are grateful that the Nobel Peace Prize has a kind heart!
We are grateful to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. You allowed the people of the world to glimpse China’s conscience!
* Ed.: As reported in the Economist, the term “universal values” made it into the Chinese vocabulary after the term was used in article about disaster relief efforts. The term was instantly controversial:
A flurry of commentary appeared in Beijing newspapers and on conservative websites attacking the idea of universal values as a Western plot to undermine Party rule. China was preparing to host the Olympics in August 2008 with the slogan, “one world, one dream.” But conservatives feared that embracing universal values would mean acknowledging the superiority of the West’s political systems. In September, after the games, the party’s own mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, weighed in. A signed article accused supporters of universal values of trying to westernize China and turn it into a laissez-faire economy that would no longer uphold “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
** Zhou Duo was a former sociology teacher at Peking University.
*** Gao Xin was the former chief editor of Normal University Weekly and a Party member.
† The term “junzi” refers to someone of noble moral character.
†† Before the Tiananmen Square incident, Liu Xiaobo was a professor at Beijing Normal University and would have been considered a government employee.