As we write, Liu remains cloistered in a remote prison in northeast China. This fourth prison sentence of 11 years came after he co-authored Charter 08, a document calling on the Chinese government to institute democratic reforms and guarantee the freedoms of assembly, religion and expression. Though Charter 08 was modeled after Czechoslovakia’s Charter ’77, the fundamental values it invokes are no more Western than they are Chinese.
We nominated Liu for the Nobel Peace Prize this year because of the universality of his call for fundamental freedoms for his people.
At its core, Charter 08 asks the Chinese government to honor rights enshrined in the Chinese Constitution. The government has already signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ratified the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights. In a recent interview with CNN, premier Wen Jiabao acknowledged that “Freedom of speech is indispensable. . . . The people’s wishes for, and needs for, democracy and freedom are irresistible.”
This need not be a moment of shame or insult for China. This should be a moment of pride, celebrating the fact that one of China’s own is recognized as the world’s greatest contributor to that which all nations seek: peace. It is an affirmation of one of humankind’s oldest living languages that Liu’s words in Charter 08, Chinese words, could inspire such admiration. It is a testament to the strength and courage of the Chinese people that Liu’s actions have earned such widespread respect.