Paul Lau (Hong Kong, AC 10-12), Adrian Leong (Hong Kong, AC 10-12)
After weeks of intense dialogue, political positing and lots of news reports, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo of China on the 8th October 2010 for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. At the same time, all news channels that were reporting the announcement on TVs in China went blank for a few minutes, leaving most of China without knowledge that a Chinese person had won a Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1989, Liu Xiaobo had just returned to China from Columbia University where he was a visiting scholar as Tiananmen protests broke out. Liu became involved in the movement and was amongst the four who went on a hunger strike. As the military moved in, they persuaded students to leave, saving hundreds of lives. In the ensuing crackdown, Liu was jailed, released in 1991 and jailed again from 1996 to 1999. During this time, he was sentenced to a “re-education-through-labour” camp for “spreading rumors and libel” and “disturbing public order”
In 2008, Liu along with some 300 other intellectuals and activists drew up the ‘Charter 08′ manifesto calling for free speech and multi-party elections. Charter 08 was inspired by Charter 77, the bold call for political reform by intellectuals in Czechoslovakia that shook Eastern European totalitarian regimes. Liu decided to put his name first in the list of signatories shortly before it was published, knowing full well that he would bear the brunt of the resulting crack-down. The publication was quickly picked-up on both internationally and within China and Liu was arrested by the police on 8 Dec 2008, two days before the charter was actually released. Liu was subsequently sentenced to 11 years in jail, but not before thousands of Chinese residents had also signed the manifesto.