Easy to memorize: the coming of the Lord Jesus on December 24 is only two days earlier. Obviously, that Holy-Night guy isn’t worthy to untie Mr. Su’s shoelaces, of course, and is only His messenger.
… and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
Alfred Nobel, 1895, defining the scope of the Nobel Peace Prize
A book – What Nobel really wanted – was
Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a humanist and lawyer, wrote in 2010. His campaign probably gained traction in 2010, given that the 2010 winner of the Prize was Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who reportedly, to this day, this day remains in custody, either in prison, or in a labor camp, and given that China’s authorities have taken a great interest in anything that helps to question the legitimacy of the prize. The book became available in Chinese in 2011, published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing.
Publicity helps – even if it comes from a totalitarian regime. When European institutions become unable to perform their acutal duties, any help should be welcome, CCP support included. But it’s a fine line, and a reasonable citizen should try to weigh and understand the factors in power games as carefully and comprehensively as he can.
Kristian Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) (and not directly associated with the committee itself) made a pretty candid statement in an al-Jazeera discussion published on youtube last Wednesday, highlighting Beijing’s influence in Norwegian politics and on the Nobel Committee’s decisions.
Moderator: Do you think if you are Chinese today, you have a chance of winning a Nobel Peace Prize?
Harpviken: Yes, but I think there is one thing that [not readable] against any non-Chinese candidacy at the moment, and that is that the 2010 prize to Liu Xiaobo was so deeply contested by the Chinese government that for the Nobel committee, it is virtually unthinkable to give a prize that would be consistent with the government’s plans and politics, but it is equally inconceivable to give a prize to another dissident in this particular situation …
[Remaining answer unreadable, as it was cut short by moderator]
That, and what follows in a European context, makes it clear that the image of an independent committee, carrying out Alfred Nobel‘s will, is a pretty shaky and highly theoretical concept.
But a list of alternative Nobel Peace laureates, as published by the Nobel Peace Prize Watch, looks no less shaky. For one, it mainly lauds activists who target Western militarism or Western secrecy. The real world isn’t quite that uni-polar.
And there’s another problem. The list explained by its authors, at the bottom of the page, and along with several entries:
Above is the list – based on extensive research – of those who are nominated AND qualified, either 1) by direct work for the global disarmament plan Nobel had in mind, or (under a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel) 2) by peace work with high utility and relevance to realizing the “fraternity of (disarmed) nations,” or 3) by new ideas and research, developing new methods for civilized, non-violent interrelation between peoples that enables a demilitarization of international relations.
Heffermehl’s point – as I understand it – has so far been that the committee deviates from Alfred Nobel’s will. But then, someone who wants to provide an alternative to the current committee’s practice, should interpret Nobel closely, not with a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel. Edward Snowden would be a particular case in point. The desire to support and encourage him is a good thing. But Snowden is hardly a pacifist, or a peace activist, if you go by this Guardian account of February 2014. Even if we take into account that Snowden, under huge US prosecution (or persecution, for that matter), can’t speak his mind openly enough to convey a full picture of his views and intentions, he should rather be in the alternative list’s waiting list for now.
You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s either a choice in accordance with Nobel’s will, or it’s an interpretation. If it’s an interpretation, the acting Nobel committee can’t be as wrong as first reported.
Once again: trying to turn public attention to an elephant – even if already in the room – is a difficult undertaking, when deemed undesirable by the establishment. It is also a fine line in terms of ethical standards, and I’m beginning to believe that it is an impossible mission, if undertaken without compromising.
Besides, there’s a predicament any institution – and opposing movement – will face: a too narrow choice of candidates, (nearly) unknown to the public, may not achieve much publicity. But without publicity, even the most sincere political plans and objectives are doomed.
Even if biased, a public list of Nobel Peace Prize candidates as published by Heffermehl and Magnusson, that provides a platform for public debate about possible Nobel Peace Prize candidates, is a good step. One can only hope that – better sooner than later – the acting committee in Oslo will understand this, and follow the example.
Norway’s prime minister and foreign minister are not going to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits next month, as part of an effort to ease tensions with the world’s second-largest economy, Bloomberg reported on April 23. Views and News from Norway wrote on April 9 that Parliamentary President and a long-time supporter of Tibet, Olemic Thommessen, said he would not be meeting with the exiled spiritual leader because it was more important to repair relations with China. Relations between Oslo and Beijing had been frigid ever since Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, reports the Norwegian English-language website. It was Norway’s – now ruling – Conservative Party, including now prime minister Erna Solberg, who spoke up for human rights issues and Tibet in 2008. The Dalai Lama himself is a Nobel laureate and visits on the 25th anniversary of being awarded the peace prize.
According to the Views and News report,
Olav Gunnar Ballo, another former leader of the Tibet committee, said it’s a shame Norway’s leading politicians haven’t come out in support of the Dalai Lama, and it’s cowardly that appeasing China now seems to take precedence over human rights issues that were so actively brandished in the past.
According to the Voice of Tibet, a Norway-based broadcaster and website operator, demonstrators protested, on Wednesday, against high-ranking politicians’ decisions not to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among the demonstrators – about 400 according to News and Views -, were Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande, MP Rasmus Hansson of the Green Paerty, and rock musician Lars Lillo-Stenberg. Norway should not cave in to force and threats, one of the organizers reportedly told Norway’s public broadcaster NRK. According to Views and News, Liberal Party leader Grande said that
the Dalai Lama would not be received “in the basement” […] but would be brought to parliament to meet “as many politicians as we can manage to scrape together. We will show that people are concerned about the cowardice shown.”
These are strong words of criticism – and as they come from Norwegians, these words are laudable. But before Europeans elsewhere join the condemnations easily, they should pause and think what they or their countries were doing while Norwegian business was kept in the cold by Beijing. In fact, Oslo resisted the pressures for a remarkably long time.
But it is also true that the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo – independent from government in formal terms, but not when it comes to membership and influence – has made a joke of itself in recent years. Awarding Liu Xiaobo was a brave choice, but the award that had preceded it a year earlier – to Barack Obama -, and the one that followed in 2012, to the European Union, were silly (to put it mildly).
Are the current (small-scale, but still bigger than elsewhere) protests only the last echoes from Norway’s better days? Or are they an indication that civil society is picking up important issues where the elites are failing? The Dalai Lama himself has turned more to people-to-people diplomacy in recent years, at least formally.
That’s where the future is.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced the Helman/Hammet awards for 2012 on Thursday. I wasn’t aware that this prize existed, but learned about it from the Chinese press.
Some context: a People’s Daily editorial (on a different issue, the International Communications Union conference in Dubai) was published on a number of popular Chinese websites on Thursday, without direct mention of this specific award. Huanqiu Shibao, a nationalist newspaper (and nominally, not necessarily by content, a sister paper to the English-language “Global Times”) addresses the prize issue head-on, in a way that may be tailor-made for its (angry, by trend) readership.
Links within blockquotes added during translation.
On the American “Human Rights Watch” list of the 2012 Hellman/Hammett Award winners, 12 out of 41 are Chinese, and there are seven people from China’s Uighur, Mongolian, Tibetan etc. national minorities among them. Nearly all of them have been in prison or are currently in prison. When looking at the organization’s name, and looking at which people are the prize winners, and what this prize is used for, one can expect that the Chinese people can make their guess, too.
During these two years, there have been more and more extreme Chinese dissidents who won “human rights prizes” in the West, and [those dissident’s] reputation is going lower and lower. What once bewildered Chinese society has become routine. We all know that there are a few people in this country who oppose the political system and that the West supports them. This has become an established pattern in the game between China and the West.
With China’s great scale of development, interaction between Chinese and Western people has also reached an amazing dimension, and the share of these Sino-Western frictions within the interaction is shrinking, and so is the influence of extreme dissidents in China. Frequently, they don’t get as much attention as lawful [or rightful] criticism on the internet does.
In exact words, extreme dissidents in China have become completely marginalized, and the way the West continues to use them to provoke China is lacking innovation. In fact, the voice of the entire Western discourse has become ever smaller in China, as they are losing to the excitement of the Chinese microblogs.
The highest individual amount of prize money of the Hermann Hammett Awards doesn’t reach 10,000 US dollars, and one of its purposes is said to be giving “politically prosecuted” people in different countries some “living allowance”. But maybe they don’t know that this bit of money is pitifully small, [unsafe translation: for lawful critics in China]. China has become “tall and hefty”, and that bit of money and the hopes from the West are just a drop in the bucket.
What China and the West are struggling about concerning human rights is not clear. The two sides don’t understand each others words at all. Which is alright. Inside China, you have as many human rights critics in China as you want already, and although they are at times extreme, they are also comparatively specific. Society can thoroughly make sense of their context. Human rights prizes awarded by the West often come with abrupt choices, choosing strange people, and we don’t need to spend too much thought on that.
Of course, Western criticism of China’s human rights isn’t completely meaningless. They did move things in Chinese society. Sometimes,confrontation is also a means of interaction. However, objectively speaking, much of Western criticism goes beyond China’s realities, thus causing suspicions among Chinese people about intentions behind Western methods. All this has seriously harmed strategic mutual trust between China and the West, and its negative impact on the 21rst century gretly exceeds its benefits.
Extreme dissidents played an offbeat role of their own in China’s reform and opening, but when their role will be assessed from the distant future, they will definitely not be seen as a mainstream force in advancing China’s progress. If the focus of these Western awards isn’t a prank, it must be caused by a failed analysis of China’s power.
Pluralization in Chinese society has subtly built changes in the way the country progressed. When the government issued a call in the past, society responded in its multitude. Now it leads to a debate. It has become unlikely that the country makes another grave mistake [This and the previous line seem to allude to the excesses of Maoism], but at the same time, societal efficiency is also declining. China is in the process of finding a new point of balance in these changes. If extreme dissidents who break through the legal system of these social changes and explorations, they create destructive mishap, and will be investigated in accordance with the law.
Western support for Chinese extreme dissidents seems to become ever closer, but times when this kind of thing found its way into the limelight are gone. They have become as tasteless as chicken ribs, but the West seems to be reluctant to throw them away. Nowadays, Western organizations doing these things look more like astute public-relations industries. Assuming an air of importance. To make themselves look good, they are seeking gimmicks close to China’s rise.
Much of the commenting underneath seems to be about unrelated everyday issues (Maybe there are relations which I can’t see, though). One of them which would seem to show some of the desired effects, and also one of the more extensive ones suggests that
Patriotic people don’t need to listen to American and other Western countries’ forces’ anti-China rumors, or be furious about them. Westerners people nowadays lose in the political and economic field and know perfectly well that their own institutions have problems, but won’t change, believing it’s the mother of all systems. Therefore, they will blame anyone except themselves, […] this is the common fault of Western people, seeing in exasperation how China becomes stronger by the day, moving heaven and earth and racking their wits about how to obstruct China’s development, but to no avail. Instead, China develops even faster. Now they only have the human-rights and democracy card left […]
爱国之人不要听美国等西方反华势力的谣言，而恼怒，西方人如今政治经济完全失败，明知自己的体制出现问题，可是就是不改，认为自己是体制的老大，而怨天尤人，[气人有笑人无，] 这是西方人的通病，看着中国日益强大而气急败坏，想方设法，绞尽脑汁的妨碍中国的发展，但是都无济于事，反倒使中国发展更快。现在就只有民主这张牌 […]
It is also one of the comments – if not the comment – in the thread which got the most “support” votes – 267 by 11:00 UTC. The average “support” among the latest thirty-three comments got twenty “support votes” or less.
The People’s Daily editorial – published two days before Huanqiu Shibao’s, and in a different context (the International Telecommunications Union resolution) – could be summed down as follows:
- Those who oppose censorship are a minority (if not outsiders, which is deemed an unfortunate position in a Chinese context)
- America and other (barely mentioned) countries that didn’t agree to the International Telecommunications Union resolution are in a minority
- A free internet is war on vulnerable nations
- China is at the center of the family of nations
- dissidents are isolated.
The message People’s Daily’s and Huanqiu Shibao’s editorials have in common is that the country grows stronger, and that “Western” standards would be an exception, rather than the norm. In some ways, Huanqiu Shibao’s approach is more subtle than People’s Daily, though. Even “radical minorities” played a certain role, according to its description – and it suggests that there were “lawful” ways to bring about change. When it comes to banging the drums of nationalism however, there is no room for subtlety in Huanqiu’s case. While People’s Daily merely uses ITU voting results to point out China’s strong position, Huanqiu counts the prize money from Human Rights Watch and provides an assessment (“pitiful”).
The biggest commonality between the two editorials seems to be the message to (“extreme”) dissidents: you are marginalized.
There are people who are outspoken when they are young, and mute their voice as they are getting older. There are others who mute their voice when they are young, and become more outspoken as they are growing older.
Mo Yan ( 莫言), it seems, is a man of the second kind.