The Blog

Liu Xiaobo vs. China's Communist Government

4:50 PM, Oct 18, 2010 • By KELLEY CURRIE
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

When Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize last week, the authoritarians in Beijing responded in their typical, iron-fisted fashion. The Foreign Ministry immediately called the award "blasphemy" and a "desecration," and characterized Liu as a common criminal. They cancelled official meetings with the Norwegian government and accused countries that lauded Liu's selection of ignorance, jealousy and malice toward China's success. They also placed Liu's wife, Liu Jia, under house arrest, and detained several Chinese who attempted to celebrate the award. Other supporters of Liu have gone missing at the hands of state security, including Ding Zilin (founder the Tiananmen Mothers, an advocacy group that seeks an official reappraisal of the 1989 massacre), Ding's husband, and dissident writer Jiang Qisheng, a close friend of Liu's. 

Liu Xiaobo vs. China's Communist Government

After its initial broadsides, Beijing instituted a comprehensive effort to blackout domestic coverage of, and discussion about, the prize. The "Ministry of Truth," Chinese netizens' Orwellian name for the cohort of agencies involved in managing the government's multi-layered censorship regime, moved quickly to warn all news outlets and Internet content and service providers to block any reference to Liu or his prize. Searches for Liu's name, the word "Nobel" and, according to a source who monitors censorship on Chinese user-generated content and micro-blogging sites, even the Chinese characters for the word "peace" brought up the censors' familiar warning that one had stumbled upon forbidden content. 

Last Thursday, however, the Ministry of Truth sent out new instructions for media outlets and Internet portals to push a spate of articles that, alternately or in some combination, demonize the prize, demonize Liu, and accuse the West of using the prize to beat up on China. One article (in Chinese only) attacks the award by linking Lui's receipt of it to the Dalai Lama's 1989 prize, and portraying both as tools of Western imperialists bent on containing China. Another is a piece of vintage communist sophistry that quotes a useful idiot by the name of Arnulf Kolstad, a Norwegian professor of Chinese studies, who calls Liu an inappropriate choice and intimates that the Chinese president would have been a better choice for the award. A third cites a Chinese professor citing the award as evidence of a Western conspiracy to force foreign concepts of human rights on China.  This last article is quite interesting, however, as it is written in such a way as to make it very easy to read between the lines and see that Liu Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years for trying to promote human rights and democracy, and that this is what he is being recognized for with the Nobel Prize. Today, the Chinese media is shrilly demanding the Nobel committee apologize to the Chinese people. The state run Global Times, sister paper to the People's Daily, cites a survey conducted by its internal "pollsters," finding that 6 out of 10 (only 6 out of 10?) Chinese believe the prize should be withdrawn and China issued an apology. Chinese media has also been highlighting the fact that Liu Xiaobo's literary magazine received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, with one website going so far as to post the grantee's tax returns online, showing that Liu is still drawing a salary despite his imprisonment.  

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 18 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers