As widely predicted, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent battle to improve human rights in his country. Just as predictable, perhaps, has been China's response to the award. The professor is currently serving an 11-year jail sentence in China for a pro-democracy manifesto he wrote in 2008, and the country's authorities condemned the Norwegian prize committee for rewarding a "criminal." The state-run media has blacked out the news and threatened sanctions against Norway. What could this mean for the state of democracy in China? (Watch the announcement)
Increased international attention will certainly help: There will be "increased attention" on China as a result of Liu's win, says Corinna-Barbara Francis, an Amnesty International spokesperson quoted in Voice of America. Now, the international community might focus on urging "change and progress in the way that the Chinese government treats individuals who are simply speaking out."
"China and the Nobel Peace Prize"
But there's too much money at stake for the West to act: There will be much "online comment" applauding Liu's win, says The Economist. Alas, the West's desire to profit from China's "rapid economic growth" will always trump our concern for "individual dissidents." The country may one day release Liu to "win plaudits from Western governments," but it will have nothing to do with pressure from us. While China's boom continues, it has plenty of "breathing space."
"The laureate behind bars"
Still, it's symbolically important: Liu's Nobel Prize will not end the "relentlessness of everday authoritarianism" in China, says Gady Epstein in Forbes, but it will help transmit the "proud legacy" of the many disappeared dissidents who have been forgotten. "More people around the world and inside China will know what they all stand for, and for a time will remember them and their cause a little better." That's the true value of this prize.
"What Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize stand for"
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