Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Liu Xiaobo and the Empty Chair

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th December, 2010

There was a moving ceremony in Oslo today as the Nobel Peace Prize was delivered to an empty chair — symbolising the imprisoned Chinese writer and human rights activist (and President of independent Chinese PEN) Liu Xiaobo. This is not the first time that a Nobel laureate has not been able to collect the prize in person, though in the past a spouse or close relative — in Aung San Suu Kyi’s case in 1991, it was her 18-year-old son — has stood in for the winner. But as Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia (and a number of their friends) are under house arrest, that was not possible in this case. China reacted furiously to Mr Liu’s selection — even referring to the Nobel Committee as an ‘evil cult’ — and warned Norway of dire consequences. But it is the People’s Republic that has shot itself in the foot, not only by giving the award huge worldwide publicity because of its tirades but also making it look foolish and vindictive by not allowing at least Mr Liu’s wife to go to Oslo to collect the citation. China is a signatory to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it has yet to fulfil many of its obligations on this front. Liu Xiaobo and other dissidents like him have bravely pointed this out, despite persecution. Hence his imprisonment. But his message is now heard louder than ever before.

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