Why China opposes Liu’s Nobel Prize

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GUEST COMMENTARY: China’s Ambassador to Norway, Tang Guoqiang, believes the Norwegian Nobel Committee has discredited the Peace Prize it’s entrusted with awarding. Tang tries to explain why opposition to the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision last month to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to human rights activist Liu Xiaobo is so strong within the Chinese government.

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Why China Opposes Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo
By Tang Guoqiang

China's ambassador to Norway, Tang Guoqiang. PHOTO: Embassy of China

As described in Alfred Nobel’s will, the Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who broke China’s laws by inciting subversion of the state’s power and was convicted by the Chinese judicial authorities. What he did has nothing to do with the defense of peace, disarmament, let alone human rights development. What he did runs counter to Nobel’s purposes of the Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel committee’s decision to award the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo violates the principles of the prize and discredits the Peace Prize itself.

China is a country ruled by law. What Liu did violates the Chinese law and has nothing to do with so-called “promotion of human rights.” Liu was brought to justice according to the Chinese law. To award the prize to a convicted criminal is an open contempt for China’s legal system and therefore constitutes interference into China’s internal affairs.

A human rights fighter or a criminal?
China practices the socialist system, adheres to the road of peaceful development and implements the policy of reform and opening up. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China 61 years ago, especially since the adoption of reform and opening up more than 30 years ago, our experiences have demonstrated that although China’s system, policy and development mode are different from that of the Western countries, they suit China’s national conditions. They have guaranteed the country’s development, improved people’s living standard, solved countless difficulties and challenges, and maintained the security and stability of the country. China’s performance during the recent global financial crisis proves once again they are both effective and successful in China.

By observing Liu Xiaobo’s words as well as deeds, it is not hard to see that Liu Xiaobo denies China’s development direction of reform and opening up and denies China’s socialist system. Over the years, instead of making any contribution to China’s peaceful development, he acted to harm the stability and development in China. Thus, this is not a human rights issue, but a criminal act. China’s laws guarantee the political and social stability. Liu Xiaobo violated the law and was brought to justice according to law.

Some people claim that they are the defenders of the “universal human rights” and they have the duty to care. Actually they are using a criminal to exert pressures on China and force China to tolerate those who acted to subvert state power and political system. I should say these people have made totally wrong calculations.

Most countries in the world, both in the West and in the East, have set in their criminal laws provisions on crimes such as insult, libel, instigating ethnic hatred and discrimination, fabricating and intentionally disseminating false terrorist information and instigating subversion of state power. They also have judicial practice on these laws. China is no exception.

Why China attaches importance to political stability
China’s GDP is the third-largest in the world, but in per capita terms, it is only one-tenth of that of developed countries. China has enjoyed over 30 years of fast growth, but its further development faces energy, resources and environmental constraints. China is a leading producer of many important products, but it remains at the lower end of the global industrial chain. China is a big trading nation, but its exports are low in technology content and value added. In many cases, we have to rely on imports to meet the demand for core technologies.

China’s coastal areas and some of the big and medium-sized cities thrive in modernization, but many places in the central and western regions and the vast rural areas are still rather backward, and we have 150 million people living below the poverty line set by the United Nations. The Chinese people’s livelihood has made significant improvement, but we do not yet have a full-fledged social security system, and we are confronted with high employment pressures. Above facts show that China is a developing country and will remain to be so for a long time to come.

China has set the strategic goal of basically achieving modernization by the middle of this century. Looking into the coming decades, the Chinese people will continue to move forward along the path of reform and opening up and peaceful development. This path has changed China’s destiny and has benefited people throughout the country. We must stay on this path and make further improvement.

Our experience over the past 30 years tells us that without political stability there would be no reform and development. China has been subjected to too many troubles in the past centuries, such as imperialist aggression and oppression, protracted wars, and turmoil during the Cultural Revolution. Now the Chinese people are enjoying this rare opportunity for prosperity. How can we allow people to take it all away from us? Political stability is of paramount importance to China, not only for present days, but also for coming decades. That’s why we are very sensitive to political stability. We welcome constructive criticisms, but not those actions deviating from its development path and destructive to its political stability.

The judicial system in every country is aimed at ensuring normal, orderly and stable working and living environment for its citizens, and so it is in China. Every country in the world will take action when it feels that state security and stability is at peril, even when the threat is yet to materialize. There are such examples even among European countries.

Getting better or getting worse?
It is universally recognized that China’s human rights over the past 60 years and more have made remarkable progress. An undeniable fact has been cited repeatedly that hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. This fact alone tells us three things: firstly this “hundreds of millions of people” lifted from poverty are enjoying great human rights in China; secondly such a great human rights achievement can not be made without domestic stability; and thirdly, we have a lot to do to provide a decent life and a better human rights condition to 1.3 billion people.

To realize such an objective in such a country, China cannot copy the mode of human rights development of the developed Western countries, nor can it copy the methods of other developing countries. China can only start from its own reality and explore a road with its own characteristics. China has found a road to promoting and developing human rights which is in line with the country’s reality. This means that while promoting people’s political, civil, economic, social, cultural rights in an all round way, we must put the rights to subsistence and development in the first place.

Over the past 30 years, China has stuck to this correct road of development. As a result, not only have the living standards and mental outlook of the Chinese people changed greatly, but a set of relatively complete political and legal systems that guarantee the people’s democratic rights have been formed. Thus, great progress has been made in putting human rights into a legal and institutional framework, and China’s human rights development has been improving constantly.

We are sober-minded that limited by impediments of natural conditions, historical factors and economic development, there is still room for improvement with regard to the level of China’s democracy and legal system building, the degree of social civilization and people’s living standards. We will precede the improvement and development in a gradual and orderly way. More haste, less speed.

(Submitted to Views and News from Norway by the Embassy of China in Oslo.)