At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on Friday, jailed Chinese dissident and intellectual Liu Xiaobo was nowhere to be seen.
Yet his campaign to bring individual freedoms and democracy to China was recognized at a ceremony made more visible, in many ways, by Beijing’s efforts to suppress it.
“We regret that the laureate is not present. He is in isolation in a prison in northeastern China,” Nobel committee chairman Torbjorn Jagland said during the ceremony at Oslo’s stately, modernist City Hall. “… This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate.”
The audience of well over 1,000 dignitaries, diplomats and officials responded with sustained applause and a standing ovation. An oversize portrait of Liu, 54, had been hung on the stage. His eyes, behind his trademark spectacles, appeared to take in the proceedings.
And on his blog, Evan Osnos reports from Beijing, where there was little public mention of the ceremony:
At 1 P.M. in Oslo—8 P.M. in Beijing—China did not watch the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. The event didn’t appear on Chinese television, and, in scattered homes and hotels that receive foreign networks, many screens went dark at the mention of the prize and its winner, Liu Xiaobo, who is serving eleven years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”
The Nobel Web site was blocked, but still visible through a proxy server, offering a view of the empty blue chair on stage, a reminder that not only was Liu prevented from attending, but so were his relatives, friends, and lawyers—the first time that has happened since 1935, when Hitler prevented anyone from Germany from receiving the prize on behalf of Carl von Ossietzky, who was in a guarded hospital bed after having been in a concentration camp.
But most Chinese don’t have proxy servers. If they’d had a chance to tune in, they might have heard the unflattering comparison between China, Burma, Iran, and the Soviet Union. They would have heard Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, quote Liu’s own words, that political reforms should “be gradual, peaceful, orderly and controlled.” And they would have seen a standing ovation for the closing exhortation: “We congratulate Liu Xiaobo on the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010. His views will in the long run strengthen China. We extend to him and to China our very best wishes for the years ahead.”
Read more about Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize via CDT. The Nobel website, which streamed the ceremony, is posting messages sent to laureates from around the world, many of which are in Chinese sent to Liu.
Update: Watch actress Liv Ullmann read Liu’s words at the award ceremony earlier today:
Read also the speech delivered today by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
– “At Peace Prize Ceremony, Winner’s Chair Stays Empty” from the New York Times
– “He of the three-character name” by Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan
– “China airbrushing Nobel peace prize from internet. Even ’empty chair’ isn’t safe.” from the Christian Science Monitor
– “China’s Tirades Are Partly Aimed at Home Audience” from the New York Times.
– “Liu Xiaobo and 3 Noble Nobel Winners” by Jeffrey Wasserstrom in the Huffington Post, which puts today’s ceremony in a historic perspective.
– “As Nobel peace prize is given to Liu Xiaobo, what will its effect be?” from the Guardian, a round table discussion
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, a man traveled to the Chinese embassy to deliver flowers to the Ambassador to congratulate him and his country on the Nobel and filmed their subsequent conversation: