Dissidents Named for Peace Prize

Chinese authorities aren't celebrating these nominees.
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Blind activist Chen Guangcheng in an undated photo.
Blind activist Chen Guangcheng in an undated photo.
Gongmin Weiquan Wang (www.gmwq.org)

HONG KONG—Seven members of the U.S. Congress have nominated three leading Chinese rights activists, of whom two are jailed and one is missing, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Civil rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing for a year since his detention by Beijing police, jailed Charter 08 activist and writer Liu Xiaobo, and civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng were all named in the letter to the Nobel committee in Oslo.

"It's a very good piece of news," Chen's wife Yuan Weijing, who visited her husband in prison recently for the first time in a year, said.

"I will tell him about it. It will help him to stay informed. I think he will be very happy about it," said Yuan, who is herself under tight surveillance at the couple's home in Yinan county, in the eastern province of Shandong.

"He is still suffering from diarrhea, but seemed alright apart from that," said Yuan, who was allowed a brief exchange lasting no more than 20 minutes with Chen while surrounded by prison guards.

"His skin doesn't look healthy, and he has really aged a lot," she added.

Yuan said her husband has suffered from regular bouts of diarrhea since the end of July 2008, and that prison authorities have refused to grant him a medical examination and treatment despite repeated requests by his family.

"He has been denied medication. His health condition is very poor … he has diarrhea. I brought food with me, but they did not allow me to take it inside [the prison]. I couldn't do anything about it."

Under surveillance

Yuan, who has requested medical parole on behalf of Chen but received no reply from authorities, has previously said Chen suffered beatings while in the Linyi municipal prison in June 2007 after he launched an appeal against his conviction.

She added that her home has been under round-the-clock watch by authorities since her husband was detained.

"My house is under 24-hour surveillance. They reduced the number of people watching me to only three, but what is strange is that they know about my every move."

'No one so deserving'

Chen, a self-taught lawyer, was detained repeatedly, beaten, and kept under surveillance after he helped local people take legal action against the Linyi municipal government in cases of alleged forced abortion.

He was sentenced to four years and three months' imprisonment for "damaging public property and obstructing traffic" in August 2006.

Thursday's letter, signed by lawmakers led by New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith, said the Nobel committee had earned a reputation for making awards in the face of strong opposition from governments.

"We can think of no one so deserving of recognition," they wrote of the three activists, "and no one whose recognition would be more timely or do more to foster peace in the 21st century."

Members of national assemblies are among those with the right to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Charter 08 nominee

Beijing-based writer Liu Xiaobo. Credit: Boxun
Beijing-based writer Liu Xiaobo. Credit: Boxun Photo: RFA
The wife of Beijing-based writer Liu Xiaobo, who was jailed for 11 years for subversion last December after he helped draft the controversial Charter 08 document, said she hoped Liu Xiaobo would be awarded the Prize.

"I hope Liu Xiaobo will get the Prize. I think a lot of people who love freedom will be on Liu Xiaobo's side," said Liu Xia.

But she said she was angry to hear about the Chinese foreign ministry statement on her husband's nomination.

"I know that the Chinese government is strongly opposed to it," said Liu Xia, whose request to visit Liu Xiaobo ahead of the lunar new year celebrations this month had met with no reply.

The judgment against Liu written by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court was based on Liu’s role in drafting and organizing the signing of Charter 08 in December 2008, which called for sweeping political change in China, and on six essays Liu published from 2005-2007 that criticized the Chinese government.

"This is unlikely to have any real impact on the result of the second appeal, but at least it will do a lot to improve his mental and emotional state, because it's an affirmation of what he did."

Shang Baojun, Liu Xiaobo’s lawyer, said Liu was happy to learn of the nomination.

"Liu Xiaobo is grateful and honored by the nomination. He feels greatly encouraged and gratified, because this is high recognition indeed of his work," Shang said.

Shang also communicated Liu’s response to Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu’s comment that "it would be a mistake to give Liu such an award."

"Liu Xiaobo believes that the comment is an expression of weakness. If giving him such an award really is a mistake, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should explain why," Shang said.

Missing lawyer honored
Gao Zhisheng during an interview at his office in Beijing, Nov. 2, 2005. Credit: AFP
Gao Zhisheng during an interview at his office in Beijing, Nov. 2, 2005. Credit: AFP AFP
Meanwhile, Geng He, the wife of missing lawyer Gao Zhisheng who was recently granted political asylum in the U.S. with the couple's two children, vowed to uncover the truth about Gao's whereabouts.

"They say he went missing, that he must have 'got lost,'" Geng said. "But this is total rubbish to me. I don't accept it. I can't accept it."

Beijing-based legal scholar Teng Biao said the nomination of the three men is a positive development recognizing a new chapter in Chinese activism.

"All three are qualified for the Nobel Peace Prize. They have each accomplished a lot. They represent the best of China’s civil society."

Original reporting in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see, and in Mandarin by Qiao Long and Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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