Let’s get political

On Friday, in his enforced absence, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo will receive the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

China and 18 other countries have declined invitations to attend the ceremony, while 44 have, so far, accepted. Several of those who turned down the invitation are long-time allies or trade partners of China. And there’s the rub.

China holds a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It also holds all the aces in the global economy deck of cards. By the end of 2009, China’s foreign exchange reserves totalled about US$2.4 trillion, a financial, economic, and geopolitical reality of enormous clout. China’s strategy is to increase exports at the expense of its trading partners. It has done so by keeping its currency at an artificially low rate that gives its exports a competitive advantage on world markets. Its ambition is to create a world economy that serves China’s interests and, only as an afterthought, anyone else’s.

But that’s not the whole story. Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations in China. An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances. Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise, and censorship of the Internet and other media has grown.

Chinese propaganda has condemned the award of the Nobel Prize to Liu Xiaobo (photo left) as “an anti-China farce”. Beijing has launched attach after attack on his supporters and a new “Confucius Peace Prize” will be handed to someone else one day ahead of the Nobel ceremony in Oslo.

Fortunately, there is a public outcry against this injustice. Leading newspapers and television channels are covering the true farce: that China thinks it can pull the wool over the world’s eyes. What’s puzzling is China’s willingness to lose face and ignore the fact that people are in solidarity with Liu Xiaobo. A strong, prosperous, and democratic China that respects individual freedoms and human rights could take its rightful place in world affairs.

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