Human rights activists in Beijing heard and welcomed the news, however. “I am so very glad because we are not alone any more,” says Cui Weiping, a democracy advocate who teaches at the China Film Academy. “Our actions are approved and supported by the whole world.”
“In the long run…this will encourage Chinese human rights activists to strive for democracy and freedom,” agrees Teng Biao, Liu’s lawyer.
In the immediate future, however, he fears that “the government’s control over human rights issues will be even stronger. More activists may be arrested.”
The Nobel Committee made it plain that it intended the award as a rebuke to the Chinese authorities, which it accused of breaching the Chinese Constitution’s own safeguards of human rights such as the freedoms of speech, assembly, and of the press.
“In practice these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens,” the committee’s statement said.
Liu, a scholarly literary critic and political essayist, co-authored “Charter 08” – an appeal launched on the Internet and subsequently signed by thousands of Chinese citizens – demanding an end to the ruling Communist party’s monopoly on power, free speech, and religious freedom, among other reforms.
He was arrested just before the Charter was published in December 2008, and a year later was sentenced to one of the most severe sentences in recent memory for the crime of “incitement to subversion of state power.”
“Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison for expressing his views” said Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, explaining the award. “It was unavoidable for the committee to award him this year.”