China: Democracy’s ‘Don Quixotes’ Face Despair – and Hope, Says Havel (Updated)

2085852-homo-homini-one-worldFrom the

Every year, People in Need gives the Homo Homini awards to people who have made an important contribution to promoting human rights, democracy and non-violent resolution of political conflicts.

This year the One World festival, organized by the People in Need foundation, decided to bestow the prestigious human rights prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese intellectual and dissident.

Former president Václav Havel handed over the prize last night to a group of Chinese dissidents who represented Liu Xiaobo.

He is one of the original signatories of Charter 08 (and to the other signatories), a new dissident movement and a manifesto criticising Chinese government for violating human rights and freedom of speech, policies that damage the environment.

Read also: Chinese dissident receives Czech prize on the Prague Daily Monitor:

As Liu Xiaobo is being imprisoned, former Czech president Vaclav Havel gave the prize to his counterparts.

The award is given by the group People in Need annually to the people with contribution to the field of human rights.

Organisers said Liu Xiaobo had been awarded as he was one of the personalities of the Chinese democratic movement that seeks dialogue and non-violent solution to conflicts despite unabated persecution by the state power.

Various people can understand in their own way the sense of Charter 2008, but its signatories agree on one thing: the Charter speaks about basic values and objectives of civilised society, Xu You, one of its signatories, said when accepting the prize.


Read also: China: democracy’s ‘Don Quixotes’ face despair – and hope, says Havel by Michael Allen:

In a forceful and moving address, Cui Weiping, a prominent intellectual who has translated Havel, Ivan Klima and other dissident writers into Chinese, paid tribute to the unsung women who “stand in the first rank of those who call for human rights and democracy”. She cited Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife; Zeng Jinyan, wife of the imprisoned Hu Jia; the mothers of Tiananmen Square, including the founder of the association, Professor Ding Zilin; and the mothers of the Sichuan earthquake victims as being amongst those whose suffering and courage consistently appeals to the world’s “conscience, humanity and morality”.

History suggests that change can emerge from the least promising of circumstances, Vaclav Havel suggested:

I would like once more to point out our experience, one that our Chinese friends should adopt in one way or another, the experience that one may never reckon with success, one may never reckon with the situation changing tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in ten years. Perhaps it will not. If that is what you are reckoning with, you will not get very far.

However, in our experience, not reckoning with that did pay in the end, we found that it was possible to change the situation after all, and those who were mocked as being Don Quixotes, whose efforts were never going to come to anything, may in the end and to general astonishment get their way. I think that is important. In a peculiar way, there is both despair and hope in this. On the one hand we do not know how things will end, and on the other, we know they may in fact end well.


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