The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese human rights activist activist Liu Xiaobo "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". The laureate, a little-known figure inside China due to official censorship, is a veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and co-author of the Charter 08 manifesto for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Chinese authorities on 25 December 2009. Liu was chosen to receive the award over a record number of nominees – more than 200.
If you have been following our blog since the beginning, you may have noticed that other than tango, we are also concerned about the violation of human rights in China - and the erosion of these rights in Hong Kong since sovereignty was transferred to China in 1997.
Human rights abuses, corruption, censorship, and violent suppression of those who dare speak out - this is what it is like to live in a totalitarian regime in which no-one is truly free. The Chinese Government has tried to divert the world's attention from its sinister, dark side with displays of the country's dazzling economic progress, the magnificence of its Olympics and Asian games, and the wonders of the Shanghai Expo. We cheered when we heard the announcement that Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace prize - it showed that the world was watching. You can't fool all of the people all of the time.
Despite the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, Liu Xiaobo is still imprisoned - a political prisoner. His wife was immediately put under house arrest - without being charged with any crime. Other dissidents and associates of Liu Xiaobo were not allowed out of the country. The Chinese Government would not risk to have any of his representatives attend the ceremony to receive the prize on his behalf.
On the stage, they left his chair empty. The absence spoke louder than words - and reminded all of us not to give up, the struggle for human rights in China must go on. Liv Ullman recited the statement that Liu Xiaobo had prepared to be read out at his trial for "inciting subversion of state power" - a crime for which he was sentenced to prison for 11 years. Liu Xiaobo was not permitted to read the statement at his trial. But now the whole world heard his words:
I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who have monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities, including Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present. I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on December 3.
For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love....
I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.
– Liu Xiaobo, 23 December 2009
No enemies, no hatred... defusing hate with love. This has been the work of Liu Xiaobo for decades.
We should learn from the peaceful example set by Liu Xiaobo - but it's easier said than done. Toronto Tango can be a snake pit of enmity - if all the different factions had access to nuclear arms, they would probably be nuking each other right now. As for us - Man Yung is still working on not wanting to punch out the lights of the elbow dancer who has just poked him in the back on a crowded dance floor!