Human rights organizations and several Norwegian politicians applauded Friday’s announcement that Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. His wife was thrilled, the pro-democracy movement in China may now feel encouraged, and the man who nominated Liu was very pleased indeed.
Jan Tore Sanner, a member of Parliament for the Conservative Party who’d put Liu’s name forward, said it was “about time” the Nobel Committee turned the focus once again on human rights.
“I gave always believed he was the right winner, but must admit I doubted whether the committee would dare” choose Liu, Sanner told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Now it’s shown that doubt wasn’t warranted. The committee has demonstrated its independence.”
He called Liu a “brave champion” of democracy and human rights, and called the prize a recognition of all human rights workers around the world. He seemed to agree with his old political opponent, Thorbjørn Jagland of the Labour Party who heads the committee, that it would be “a big advantage for the whole global community” if China becomes more democratic.
Officials in France and Germany called on China to release Liu from prison, as did the Dalai Lama, who has won the Nobel Peace Prize himself.
Wife thrilled, will meet winner over the weekend
Word finally came, two hours after the award was announced, that Liu’s wife would be allowed to meet him on Saturday, and tell him he won the Nobel Peace Prize. After initially being prevented from speaking to reporters, she told French news service AFP that she was “so happy, so happy” and thanked everyone who has supported Liu. “I thank the Nobel Committee, Vaclav Havel, Dalai Lama and everyone who supported Liu Xiaobo,” she said.
She also called for his release from prison.
Other reaction streamed in, from Amnesty International, for example, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, which claimed the prize will strengthen the focus on human rights in China.
“We hope that the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo will contribute to improve his and other human rights champions’ situation in China,” said Bjørn Engesland, secretary general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. “For Liu Xiaobo, the struggle has cost him a lot.”
Engesland said Liu was known for being an “unafraid and unorthodox champion of fundamental human rights in China, where the authorities have responded with two decades of hounding him and imprisoning him and taking away from him his right to work as a university professor and writer.”
Engesland said the Norwegian Nobel Committee had made “a brave and correct choice in line with Alfred Nobel’s will.”