HONG KONG—A former top Communist Party official has hit out at Beijing for opposing the nomination of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, saying Liu has the support of many Chinese.
The 54-year old Liu, once a leading Beijing intellectual and literary critic, is among favorites to win the Nobel Peace Prize to be announced on Oct. 8, commentators said.
"There are a lot of people [in China], myself included, who think that Liu Xiaobo should have no qualms at all about accepting the Nobel Peace Prize," wrote Bao Tong, former aide to disgraced late Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang.
"The Chinese government should learn a lesson from the nomination of Liu Xiaobo for this year's Nobel Peace Prize," Bao wrote from his Beijing home, where he has been held under house arrest since serving a seven-year jail term for subversion in the wake of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.
"They should learn to respect their own laws and their own people, and to share responsibility for world peace and for the international community," he wrote in a recent essay.
Liu was jailed last December on subversion charges after he was identified as the key author of Charter 08, a controversial online document calling for sweeping political change in China.
A pro-democracy manifesto that called on the Communist Party to enact political reforms and uphold the constitutional rights of Chinese citizens, Charter 08 was signed by 303 mainland intellectuals and sent shock waves through the highest echelons of China’s leadership.
Liu was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on Dec. 25, 2009 for "inciting subversion of state power."
China's vice foreign minister Fu Ying has warned the director of the Norway-based Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, against awarding the prize to Liu, Lundestad has said.
Chinese Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that because Liu was guilty of breaking Chinese law, he was an unsuitable candidate for the prize.
‘High’ chance of winning
Bao called Liu's "criminality" highly questionable, owing to the nature of China's political system, which he himself once sought to reform.
"Liu Xiaobo wasn't sentenced according to law, because he was subject to a judicial system with 'Chinese characteristics,'" Bao wrote. "This was trial by Party: the Party said he was guilty, and so he was guilty."
He said that any attempt to put political pressure on the Nobel prize committee, which awarded the 1989 Peace Prize to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is unlikely to succeed.
U.S.-based Chinese scholar Hu Ping, editor-in-chief of Beijing Spring magazine, said he thinks the likelihood of Liu's winning the award this year is "very high."
"Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 have had a rather big impact," Hu said.
Meanwhile, Shandong-based retired university professor Sun Wenguang, a long-time friend and supporter of Liu's, said the jailed dissident has made a huge contribution to the cause of democratization in China.
"He has stuck with it through continual police harassment, confiscation of his belongings, and searches of his home," Sun said.
Liu has also urged that the government's official verdict on the 1989 student-led demonstrations and the subsequent military crackdown be overturned, and the victims of the crackdown rehabilitated, Sun said.
More than 100 Chinese scholars, lawyers, and reform campaigners have lobbied the Nobel committee on behalf of Liu.
Other contenders for this year's Nobel prize include Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Previous Nobel Peace Prize laureates have included Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu.
Laureates are selected by secret ballot by the Nobel committee from a shortlist of nominees garnered from a list prepared by approved institutions and international experts.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Yang Jiadai. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.