Fire in Oslo over Liu’s Nobel Prize

December 11, 2010

Fire in Oslo over Liu’s Nobel Peace Prize

By Thor Halvorssen

OSLO, Norway–Today the world’s worst human rights violators drew a line in the sand by boycotting this afternoon’s Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

By declining their invitations Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, China, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia, Venezuela, and Vietnam declared their rejection of the Nobel Peace Prize choice: the heroic Chinese human rights defender Liu Xiaobo. Serbia also declined but at least was forthright in explaining that China is too important for them and that is why they were absent–due to Beijing’s unprecedented diplomatic bullying.

The ceremony was conducted in Oslo’s City Hall in front of an empty chair.

When asked, Nobel Committee Secretary Geir Lundestad was not able to think of “any example where a country has so actively and directly tried to have ambassadors stay away from a Nobel ceremony.”

After first requesting, by diplomatic letter, that all sovereign nations avoid the December 10th event, China went so far as to threaten “consequences” if governments showed support for Liu by attending. The warnings worked. More governments abstained from this Nobel ceremony than any other in history.

Beijing’s most extreme attempt to distract attention away from today’s ceremony was the bizarre creation of the “Confucius Peace Prize” awarded yesterday. It seems unlikely that Confucius would sympathize with a government that has now joined Burma, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany as one of the four countries to ever prevent a winner from accepting the Prize.

China’s much-publicized campaign to derail the ceremony only explains half the story of the group of nations that avoided the event. Like Beijing, which calls Liu a “criminal” and considers the Nobel Committee a group of “clowns,” the aforementioned governments have little reason to celebrate Liu’s lifelong struggle for freedom and justice.

Some lining up on the Chinese dictatorship’s side went public with their sentiments. The Cuban regime reduced the Prize decision to an “ideological broadside”, while Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez attacked Liu as a “dissident counter-revolutionary.”

Thankfully, 46 countries (including its major trade partners) ignored Beijing’s threats and sent their ambassadors to the ceremony. Admirably–considering his country’s precarious situation–even Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou congratulated Liu.

Sadly, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights did not attend, as Navanethem Pillay declined the invitation with the excuse that she never received one. Pillay was, in fact, invited and I confirmed this with the person who was in direct email contact with her office.

Pillay hosted World Human Rights Day at U.N. headquarters at the same time as the Nobel ceremony. Pillay’s deer-in-headlights response was that she couldn’t disappoint the human rights defenders she invited to Geneva by traveling to Oslo. And Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not attend as he headlined a similar U.N. event in New York.

And what did they discuss at their World Human Rights Day events?

Was it the rights of women in Iran?


Was it the political prisoners of Burma?


Did they address the world’s dictatorships and how to aid dissidents?

Try again.

Did they expose the lack of press freedom in Russia?


Surely they addressed modern slavery in sub-saharan Africa and the Middle East, no?


One of the topics was the “situation” of black women in Europe. This is an important topic that deserves exploration but to sidestep individual rights around the world is appalling. And why focus on the “situation” of black women in Europe without addressing their “situation” in Africa where, for instance, in Uganda widows are considered sub-human or in Egypt, Somalia, and Eritrea they suffer enforced genital mutilation.

Strange that U.N. decision-makers would opt to take media attention off of Liu’s ceremony by hosting their own simultaneous events. Why not honor World Human Rights Day alongside Liu’s defenders? Why not say a word about a man who embodies the daily struggle of more than a billion people?

Whatever the explanation, it is disappointing that U.N. leadership allowed the organization to line up alongside the dubious list of countries that boycotted the Nobel ceremony.

Given China’s aggressive campaigns against them, Liu and the world’s other prisoners of conscience could have used the support.

In Oslo last night one of Norway’s leading human rights defenders, Jan Tore Sanner, a member of parliament, delivered a breathtaking speech at a reception for those of us that attended as guests of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia–who could not join us because she is under house arrest in China.

2010-12-10-LiuXia.jpgLiu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a photo of her husband.
Although some of us attended as her guests, she could not join us because she is now
under house arrest.

Sanner cheerfully welcomed us and lamented: “Our joy, however, is tempered at the thought that tomorrow’s ceremony will be conducted in front of an empty chair in Oslo City Hall. Tomorrow evening, when the traditional parade reaches the Grand Hotel, the balcony where the previous Peace Prize winners have greeted the parade will be dark and empty. Liu Xiaobo will not be there. His family will not be there. His friends and lawyers are forbidden to travel.

“In its reaction to the award to Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese regime reveals its true nature, and demonstrates why this award is so deserved, and so necessary… We must not let great powers escape the call to respect human rights and foster democracy. We must not turn a blind eye to the abuses out of fear of economic and political consequences.

“Václav Havel, who Liu himself considers an important inspiration, has said: ‘Who else but us who live in freedom should speak up for the rights of those who are not as fortunate?’

“The choice of Liu Xiaobo for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize places him in a long line of peaceful, patient, but nonetheless principled fighters for the basic human rights of human beings to be respected by their governments: Shirin Ebadi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Andrej Sakharov, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who have been honored by the Nobel Committee for their work in human rights.”

If only the world had more politicians like Jan Tore Sanner and more human rights defenders like Liu Xiaobo.

It is freezing in Oslo right now but the flame of freedom is roaring and China is feeling the heat.

Thor Halvorssen is president of the Human Rights Foundation and founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum.

18 thoughts on “Fire in Oslo over Liu’s Nobel Prize

  1. I am a muslim, but I feel inspired by a piece of tremendous beauty – and so sublime – contained in the Jewish Kabbalah, relating to its spiritual/mystical dimension, which I quote :
    ” Time creates the illusion of chaos,

    when in fact, there is concealed order ”

    Such are the ” illusions ” encrypted in nature, that little do we realise it is the ” FEW ” noble people around the globe who make sacrifices for the sake of the ” majority ” suffering under tyrany & brutalities of their regimes everywhere !
    But really, what is is this ” Confucious Peace Prize ” to a child meant to be ? For what ? If for their SWEET INNOCENCE, I agree, all children the world over universally are….
    If not clarified, China is then CONFUSING all what noble Confucious taught about ” noble ” values, such as people who receive Nobel Prizes !

  2. Hardtalk had an interesting conversation with the Chairman of the Nobel Peace Price and was asked … “Isn’t it narrow the interpretation of International Peace Values by 5 Norwegians and why can’t these 5 members be more international?… He reply these 5 Norwegians had been right in many cases eg.Martin Luther King Jr. etc.”

    I wonder if China responded by saying ” Within 3 decades of China’s ‘opening’… the highest ruling committee the CCC must be doing something right as when the rest of the World is reeling under financial crisis,China is booming and UK,Europe and of course the US of A is bending over backwards to forge more trade with China.”

    Of course this is not to imply that China is absolutely correct on the Liu’s Nobel Prize Issue but that is a tree in the forest of China’s Overall Development and the complexities involved in Managing China is mind boggling!!!

  3. They awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to

    -FREDRIK WILLEM DE KLERK President of the Republic of South Africa… Apartheid champion

    -Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitshak Rabin

    All three are terrorists by any definition with blood on their hands

    -Menachem Begin
    A well known terrorist responsible for the bombing of a hotel when Israel tried to kick the British out of Palestine. He called Palestinians “beasts walking on two legs”

    One of those responsible for the Vietnam War. He has blood of innocent Vietnamese on his hands.


    The atomic energy agency and Mohamaed El Baradei are tools of the Americans and the west. They are responsible for not taking a strong stand to prevent the Iraq war when Israel and the Jewish Lobby pushed the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

    The Atomic Agency and Mohamad El-Badarei have the blood of innocent children, men and women on their hands.

    The Nobel Peace Prize has been politicised in recent years, playing to the tune of the Western countries.

    Perhaps Confucius has something to say about Alfred Nobel whose conscience about inventing dynamite tried to save his own soul by giving out money to others to stop the madness since then of which he was part of.

    Let there be competition. A western-based Peace Prize and an Asian-based Peace Prize.

    A choice between Confucius associated with family values vs Alfred Nobel the inventor of dynamite.

    How about a Mahathir Peace Prize for inter racial harmony?

  4. By the way, if an individual is able to win both the western-based Nobel peace prize and the Asian-based Confucius Peace Prize, then that individual will have something to crow about.

    The winner will be a truly international citizen worthy of praise, respect and adulation.

    Even CNN got their winners, called HEROES.

    Time for RTM1 to have winners too, called 1Malaysia Pahlawan (PAS, PKR and DAP supporters can forget it).

    Or PAS can have a PAHLAWAN BULAN to compete with 1Malaysia Pahlawan of UMNO-BN.

    PKR should also have PAHLAWAN REFORMASI.


  5. The Swedish chaps running the Nobel Prize enterprise are a bunch of wimps.

    Imagine 5 Swedish chaps deciding on who should be given adulation for Peace??? Just because the money come from a Swedish bloke who had nothing better to do but to invent dynamite to blow off other people’s property and lives.

    Blood money for peace, even if Alfred Nobel is not directly responsible for the rivers of blood flowing in many continents, eversince he invented dynamite.

  6. Real peace is in the heart of each human beings walking on this planet.

    Giving out prizes and titles are just conventional recognition by men and women if the recipients conform to their preferred taste. Similarly, we are awarding Tun, Tan Sri, Datuk e.t.c to individuals who never have peace in their hearts, aren’t we? So what is there in Noble Peace Prizes if the giver and the recipient are suffering all the same in their hearts.

    Real peace is only within the pure heart of enlighten beings where no awards or prizes required.

    I would rather give peace prize to this lady. She gives so much joy to so many people.

  7. When they gave the prize to Obama even before he went into office, I just stopped taking the Nobel Peace Prize seriously. I hope they would maintain the integrity of prize for other fields. I think this is just an attempt to piss off China. If you look at America’s track record for abuses in Afghan and Iraq, it’ll probably be equal to China.

  8. Yes, they do not like what WikiLeaks is doing which in many respects is similar to what Liu did on a national scale. Call it double or even triple standards.

  9. Wow ! that’s a good ” upper-cut ” Frank, and I am ” floored ” ! Hee…hee…
    In which event, it looks like we can’t be naieve and think everybody is ” sincere ” in this world ! Did’nt realise that !

    But…but….what is the difference then between this present Communit China, and the ancient successive regimes of Emperors who were repressive & brutal, that it took almost five miileniums for the Chinese masses to overthrow & dismantle them ? ?
    I would have thought no difference ?

  10. A jailed Chinese criminal has been awarded with peace price, how corrupt is the Western Institution! A zero for hero, how dismay!

    Ample facts and evidences show that Liu Xiaobo has been funded by the US Congress and government to mislead Chinese people to overthrow their government violently !

    Only the Confucius Peace Prize is real peace: Confucius Peace Prize Snubs Nose at Nobel Peace Prize, in Battle of Ideas!

    Learn the real peace and universal value of Chinese philosopher Confucius from Confucius Institute:

    China calls for further cultural exchanges via Confucius Institute,

    Note that Confucius is a universal philosophy, not religion.

    All Chinese throughout the world, Koreans, Japanese, Mongolians and many SE Asians, etc are offspring of Confucius.

    China opposes interference with Nobel Peace Prize:

  11. The Scandinavians as a whole have created a society that is the envy of the world. Fair and scrupulously just. The Nobel Peace Committee is a disgrace to that tradition.

  12. The communists in China are a bunch of hypocrites.

    They want to start a Confucius Peace Prize. Cina mudah lupa.

    It was the Communists who tried to do away with Confucianism because it contradicts the dictatorial bully of the communists when they took power in 1949. They tried to undo what Confucius taught.

    Anyway, those sex-maniac emperors of China abused the teachings of Confucius to maintain power like UMNO using Untuk Bangsa dan Agama to entrench power.

    China has no business to start a Peace Prize because the blood of students from the June 4 Tiananmen Square bloodbath have not fully dried yet.

    Rather, might as well support North Korea to start a Kim Jong-Il Peace Prize.

    Sweden’s award of the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a dissident activist, is a propaganda pushed by the US to insult the Chinese leadership.

    I think the intention of the award to Liu Xiaobo is malicious.

  13. The award of peace prize to a jailed ‘criminal’ is itself a violating the human rights, a politically motivated, very arrogant, rude, disregard the judicial judgement of another country, like the WikiLeaks cables have added to the western perception of China’s self-interested presence in Africa. It is far from accurate”

    If there is a peace prize, the Confucious Prize is for real peace, more appropriate:

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