Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo passed away today, July 13, 2017. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has received the news of his death with regret and great sadness.
Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 for his efforts to implement the fundamental human rights secured in international instruments as well as in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. He was a leading figure in the Chinese democracy movement for almost 30 years. The demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 took him from an academic life to activism. He was one of the major contributors to Charter 08, the manifesto that pointed out China’s obligations to secure fundamental human rights for its citizens. In his famous poem “I have no Enemies”, we see a clear expression of his pacific attitude.
By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo the Norwegian Nobel Committee wanted to underscore the fundamental connection between developing democracy and creating and securing peace. Moreover, the Committee found that Liu Xiaobo had contributed to the fraternity of peoples through his non-violent resistance against the oppressive actions of the Communist regime in China.
Liu Xiaobo was not able to attend the Award Ceremony in Oslo in 2010. By then he had already been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment, allegedly for attempting to undermine the current political order. In our view he had not committed any criminal act, but merely exercised his citizen’s rights. His trial and imprisonment were unjust.
Liu Xiaobo’s absence from the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony was marked by an empty chair. We now have to come to terms with the fact that his chair will forever remain empty. At the same time it is our deep conviction that Liu Xiaobo will remain a powerful symbol for all who fight for freedom, democracy and a better world. He belongs to a heritage of former Nobel laureates such as Carl von Ossietzky, Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Shirin Ebadi, to mention a few.
At the end of June the news reached us that Liu Xiaobo had been released from prison. He had been transferred to hospital, but was still under guard and held in complete isolation. We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill. The Chinese Government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death.
The news of Liu Xiaobo’s serious condition was met in part with silence and belated, hesitant reactions world wide. Eventually the governments of France, Germany, and the USA called for his unconditional release, as did the EU through its foreign policy spokesperson. It is a sad and disturbing fact that the representatives of the free world, who themselves hold democracy and human rights in high regard, are less willing to stand up for those rights for the benefit of others.
In the last days of his life, we had a hope that Liu Xiaobo would be released and safely evacuated for medical treatment abroad. This would have been in accordance with his own wishes and the recommendations of the German and American doctors who were allowed to visit him. While the whole world watched, China chose instead to maintain the isolation of its prisoner.
Today our hearts are filled with gratitude to Liu Xiaobo for his monumental efforts and great sacrifices to advance democracy and human rights. He was truly a prisoner of conscience and he paid the highest possible price for his relentless struggle. We feel confident that his efforts were not in vain. Liu Xiaobo was a representative of ideas that resonate with millions of people all over the world, even in China. These ideas cannot be imprisoned and will never die.
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