Monday, October 11, 2010
China throws tantrum over Nobel Peace Prize award
As the New York Times reported, the prize is an enormous psychological boost for China’s beleaguered reform movement and an affirmation of the two decades Mr. Liu has spent advocating peaceful political change in the face of unremitting hostility from the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Blacklisted from academia (he is a literary critic) and barred from publishing in China, Mr. Liu has been harassed and detained repeatedly since 1989, when he stepped into the drama playing out on Tiananmen Square by staging a hunger strike and then negotiating the peaceful retreat of student demonstrators as thousands of soldiers stood by with rifles drawn.
There have been enormous changes in China since 1989 but the one area that remains a tragedy is with regard to human rights. The Chinese government tolerates no criticism from inside its borders and even less from outside. One of its immediate reactions to the awarding of the Peace Prize was to cancel a meeting between the fisheries ministers from China and Norway – in effect punishing Norway.
The disappointment in all of this is how cautious western governments have been in criticizing China’s human rights record. The message is very clear – when it comes to trading with the Chinese behemoth, human rights are far down the list. As I look around the room this morning, I realize that nearly everything in here has a ‘made in China’ tag on it. China’s exports trump every other nation on earth. Their economic power, as witnessed in Africa of late, is so huge that western governments tread very lightly when criticizing the Chinese government in any area while thousands of Chinese citizens suffer and die in the gulags.
When will we develop the backbone to stand up for the Liu Xiaobos of the world and let human rights trump trade? Can we?