China’s Jailed Nobel Laureate One Year Later

One year ago, writer and activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize from his jail cell. Since then, he has only been allowed out of prison once to mourn the death of his father. His wife, Liu Xia, has been held under house arrest and other dissidents throughout China have fallen victim to one of the harshest crackdowns in years. From ABC News:

Liu’s prize famously sat on an empty seat during last year’s award ceremony in Olso, Norway, because the Chinese authorities did not allow him or his family to be in attendance. Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” when he authored a petition calling for pro-democracy reforms in China.

As for what has changed one year later, 2011 has been marked by the silence of Chinese activists “achieved through disappearance, intimidation and abuse,” Time magazine noted.

Even Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, who was placed under severe supervision after he was awarded the prize last year, is still not allowed to communicate with the outside world. Our ABC News crew found out first hand last year when they tried to visit her home. Uniformed and plainclothes security guards had cordoned off the area.

Time Magazine’s blog has more on the current situation for activists in China
a year after the Nobel was awarded:

It is safe to say that any wagers placed on another Chinese winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year would be wasted. The political changes that swept the Arab world this year have crashed impotently against a seawall of state power in China. The government’s response was to unleash a harsh crackdown on activists, disappearing dozens and blocking any attempts at public protest last spring. New legislation now under consideration would make secret detention, without any notice for family members, legal for periods of up to six months in cases of terrorism, state security or serious corruption, which human rights groups fear will be used to silence dissent.

The most significant aspect of Chinese activists this past year has been their silence, which has been achieved through disappearance, intimidation and abuse. Ai Weiwei, the artist and activist, spent nearly three months in detention on tax evasion charges and is now out on a form of bail, his movements and freedom to speak out restricted. Chen, a blind legal activist, is being held with his wife in a harsh form of house arrest in their village in Shandong province, despite completing a four-year prison term for damaging property and organizing an illegal protest. The couple’s six-year-old daughter has been blocked from attending school. Gao Zhisheng, a dissident lawyer who was convicted of subversion in 2006 and has described suffering extensive abuse in detention, remains missing and is presumably being held by authorities.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government’s anger over Norway’s awarding of the prize to Liu is being played out in the trade of fish. Norway has reported China to the WTO over import controls of salmon, the Independent reports:

The Chinese imposed additional import controls on Norwegian salmon last year in apparent retribution for the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Oslo to the Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo. The result has been a collapse in sales of salmon to China, and the sight and smell of North Sea fish rotting in Chinese warehouses. The Norwegian Foreign Office said overall trade with China had grown by 46 per cent over the past six months. But sales of fresh salmon, meanwhile, have collapsed 61.8 per cent.

Officials said they would not speculate as to why Beijing had ignored trade rules relating to Norwegian salmon. But it seems clear that the threat from the Chinese embassy in Oslo last year, of “damage” to diplomatic ties should the Nobel Prize be handed to “a criminal” has focused on a narrow, iconic target.

Read seven years of reports by and about Liu Xiaobo via CDT.


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