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Asia

Nobel Peace Prize spurs hopes for more democracy in China

With this year's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo it is the first time a Chinese citizen has received the award. The pro-democracy activist, who co-organized "Charter 08" has been in jail since 2008.

NoJailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo might not even know he has received the award

Jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo might not even know he has received the award

Human rights organizations welcomed the announcement on Friday and were pleased by the fact that pressure from Chinese officials on the Norwegian government and the Nobel Committee to not present the prestigious prize to Liu Xiaobo had not been successful.

"This is a very powerful message of independence from the Nobel peace price committee," Sharon Hom from the Hong Kong-based group Human Rights in China told Deutsche Welle.

"But what is also important is the message that Liu Xiaobo and many others are issuing – the only sustainable road must be towards greater openness and political reform. Any other road is a dead end."

"There is hope because Chinese government is not monolithic"

She added that she thought the award could serve as a trigger for reforms in China.

"The comprehensive changes that are needed are being called for by the people and also within the leadership. Recently, Premier Wen Jiabao publicly referenced the need for democratic and political reform. We do have to remember that the Chinese government is not monolithic. And that is why there is hope."

Mo Zhixu said the award was the result of a common effort towards democracy

Mo Zhixu said the award was the "result of a common effort towards democracy"

Meanwhile, Mo Zhixu, a pro-democracy activist in Beijing and friend of Liu Xiaobo’s said that decades of struggle had been worth it: "We are of course very moved. We are very happy for Liu Xiaobo. This award is also an award for the Charter 08 movement and the Tiananmen movement. This is the result of a common effort towards democracy."

But the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiabo is a major embarrassment for the Chinese government. On its website, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the decision was "an obscenity against the peace prize".

Last December, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in jail for supposed subversive activity.

International calls for Liu’s release

The international community has called for his release. On Friday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert congratulated Liu Xiaobo and said he would not be forgotten.

"The German government hopes that Liu will be freed so he can receive the prize in person. Our government has demanded his release in the past and will continue to do so in the future."

The international community and human rights activists have called for Liu Xiaobo's immediate release

The international community and human rights activists have called for Liu Xiaobo's immediate release

Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party also demanded Liu’s immediate release. However, Taiwan’s National Party government stayed mum on Friday. Relations with the mainland have warmed since its coming to power in 2009.

Human rights organisations have also called for the dissident’s release. They said that they hoped his awarding of the peace prize would give a new boost to the pro-democracy movement in China.

Liu Xia, the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s wife, had another wish: "I hope that he will be able to come home soon. The prize will mean more responsibility. China will have the chance to change. The country could have a peaceful and reasonable transition. Many other activists will be encouraged by the award to work for change."

Although many regard the Nobel Prize for Liu as a strong signal to Beijing, it remains to be seen if it will have any effect. The Chinese government might well react angrily or it could just choose to ignore the decision.

Author: Chi Viet Giang
Editor: Anne Thomas

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