Beijing: Own worst enemy sometimes

The sound and fury from Beijing over the Nobel Prize committee awarding Liu XiaoBo the Peace Prize showed what to government in China really thinks.

Oddly enough, the problem Beijing is facing with the Nobel award is of their own doing.

Ying Chan at the China Media Project in Hong Kong has an excellent piece on the issue: How hardliners made Liu Xiaobo a Nobel front-runner.

Beijing leaders have blamed blame Liu’s winning the Nobel Prize on so-called hostile anti-China forces overseas. But the uncomfortable truth is that the Chinese government itself was the most formidable nominee for Liu.

On Christmas Day last year, a Beijing court sentenced Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison, turning the dissident into a martyr for the cause of human rights — and an instant favorite for the Nobel.

And now, their actions have made them soul mates with some pretty bad company.

Let’s look at what has happened.

Once Liu was awarded the Peace Prize, Beijing pulled out all the stops in denouncing the action.

  1. First, China denounces the action as an interference in its internal affairs. (A standard line used by all dictatorships.)
  2. Then, it makes sure Liu’s entire family and close circle of friends are either arrested or placed under house arrest.
  3. At the same time, it starts canceling meetings and negotiations with Norway. (Home of the Nobel Committee.)
  4. It also sends hostile diplomatic notes to all embassies in Oslo, warning them not to attend Nobel committee events or else they will face the wrath of Beijing.
  5. And finally, they made it clear there would be serious repercussions if the award ceremony goes ahead.

And now, it looks as if the ceremony will not happen because, according to Nobel Committee rules, either the recipient or a family member has to accept the award. With Liu still in jail and all his relatives under house arrest, there is no one to accept the award.

And by the way, AP is reporting that a handful of governments have said they would not be attending the ceremony, if it happens. Among the announced “absentees” is Russia. (But Moscow says it has nothing to do with Chinese pressure.)

Granted, in the past Beijing never really minded being lumped in with anti-freedom of expression and anti-democratic regimes such as Sudan, Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. They just let the complaints roll off their backs like so much sauce on a Peking Duck.

But their recent hissy fit equated China  with two other governments who did all they could to prevent dissidents from receiving the Peace Price: The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

The AP did a great story a couple of days ago that got picked up around the world. (China’s Nobel fury unmatched since Soviet days)

China’s clampdown on Liu’s relatives means the Nobel medal and diploma likely won’t be handed out for the first time since 1936, when Adolf Hitler prevented German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from accepting the prize.

Now that is some company worth keeping.

And — I love to keep bringing this up — just a week before the award was made, Premier Wen Jibao told CNN that China needed more freedom of expression if it was to develop further.

And I’ll be damned if I can remember the Mandarin phrase for “We didn’t really think anyone would take us at our word.”

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Filed under Censorship, China, International News Coverage

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