Nobel Institute director: Hold Chinese leaders accountable to their own constitution | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 11.10.2010
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Nobel Institute director: Hold Chinese leaders accountable to their own constitution

Beijing has reacted angrily to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Geir Lundestad, director of the Nobel Institute in Oslo, spoke to Deutsche Welle about the decision and the reaction.

Geir Lundestad is the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo

Geir Lundestad is the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo

This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to detained Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Deutsche Welle spoke to Geir Lundestad about the reactions of the Chinese leadership.

Deutsche Welle: Some argue that it is not fair to use the Nobel Peace Prize for political reasons. But isn’t peace itself a political term?

Geir Lundestad: Peace has certainly something to do with politics. It is a very political question. How do you achieve peace? What we have focused on this year is the connection between human rights, democracy and peace. And the Nobel Committee has argued for many years that there is such a connection. We have been very encouraged to see that peace researchers and political scientists have very much have come to the same conclusion.

You can obtain peace through many different ways, for instance through a stable state. Now the Chinese government argues that if someone disturbs the stable state, you cannot maintain a peaceful society...

This is what many governments say - that the Nobel Committee is disturbing peace. This is what Hitler said when we gave the prize to Carl von Ossietzky. This is what the Kremlin said when we gave the peace prize to Andrei Sakharov and Lech Walesa. This is what they said in South Africa, in Burma and this is what they say in Iran. They all say that this is disturbing the peace. In the long run, there is this connection between human rights, democracy and peace. You cannot have a more permanent peace if we have governments that more or less systematically suppress their population.

What do you reply when China says: We still have peace in China. Why do you give the peace prize to a person who disturbs the existing peace?

Let me say in a broader perspective that the Norwegian Nobel Committee believes in many different roads to peace. This is why we have many different kinds of peace prize laureates. We believe that the statesmen and the politicians can certainly contribute. We believe that the human rights activists can contribute and the great humanitarians and humanitarian organizations – those who work for arms control and disarmament. There is even a connection between the environment and peace. So there are many different individuals, many different ideas that can contribute to peace.

Do you think that the Chinese government is not contributing to peace if they try to silence critical voices within the country?

China has made tremendous progress, which I think we all appreciate. The economic growth in China has been tremendous. And China has now become the second largest economy in the world. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. There is more openness than there was some decades ago. But there are certain international treaties and there are clauses even in the Chinese constitution – I am referring to article 35 and 41 in particular – where the Chinese government itself addresses the importance of human rights. And at a time when China has become so important in international affairs, I think these Chinese leaders should expect to be held accountable to the treaties they have signed or ratified and to the relevant clauses in their own constitution.

Interview: Shi Ming
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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