Political or Not Political

Here is my translation of the letter (slightly abridged):-

“I have come across some conspiracy theories about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Liu Xiao Bo. Generally, it’s about the Prize being used by Western hegemonists as a political tool, with the aim of denigrating China and creating an opportunity for those with limited knowledge about it to mount attacks. In this respect, Chinese people should not rejoice over Liu’s award; they should, instead, condemn it.

Let us scrutinize the above view from the standpoint of a scholar. First, has this year’s Nobel Peace Prize been used as a political tool? Looking at past history, every year’s Nobel Peace Prize has functioned as a political tool, not only this year’s. The 1990 award to Gorbachev, the 1993 award to Mandela, the 2000 award to Kim Dai-jung, the 2007 award to Al Gore. In every instance, the Nobel Prize committee was making a political statement. In fact, as much as these winners did stir up some controversy at home, yet as far as I know, there has never been any talk in the mainland that because these people won the award, the Prize became a political tool and as such it should be condemned.

On a more macro level, nothing in this world is not political. Today when I speak here, this article is a political statement. When you choose to leave a comment below, your comment is also a political statement. Using feminists’ terminology, ‘anything personal is political’. When someone criticizes somebody else for ‘politicizing something’, he is actually forgetting that his own statement itself is political. In other words, those who degrade Liu’s winning the award to some kind of conspiracy can be regarded as perpetrating another kind of conspiracy. From a logical point of view, they have in fact destroyed their own credibility in the process.

In order to determine whether it is appropriate to award the Prize to Liu, there is no need to be bothered with whether there is any political background or conspiracy. We only need to be concerned with whether there is solid ground for the act. If there is solid ground, then we cannot blame others; we can only blame ourselves for affording an opportunity to those ‘conspirators or people with political intent’ to have the upper hand.

So, what is the ground for giving Liu the prize? According to the Nobel Prize committee, the award is to commend him for his years of efforts of fighting for China’s basic human rights in non-violent ways, highlighting his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations and his capacity as the writer of the ’08 Charter’.

Is there a problem with China’s human rights conditions? Of course we cannot deny that in the past few decades, there has been obvious improvement in this respect. But from the experience of Liu alone, we can perceive that there are still humongous defects.

Liu was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment on charges of inciting sedition because he wrote several articles criticizing one-party rule. Incarcerating anyone on account of what he says is a trampling on human rights. Regardless of whether one’s stand is right or wrong or whether one’s suggestions are suitable for China’s situation, one should never be put into prison because of one’s words. This is the most basic requirement of a modern state that is governed by rule of law. If one advocates that all Chinese people dye their hair blue, you can disagree with him, but it doesn’t mean he has no right to speak thus. After all, his right of freedom of speech is stipulated clearly in the Constitution.

Can Liu’s writings really cause disharmony in society? If writing a few articles can stir up emotions in society, then this society must have already accumulated grievances that have failed to find outlets. If we put the blame on those who write about the grievances but not on those who brought about those grievances in the first place, are we not confusing cause with effect? What truly causes disharmony in China is not Liu Xiao Bo but all kinds of unjust social systems.

If we agree that China’s human rights conditions are in urgent need of improvement, and that Liu is someone who advocates non-violent means of bettering those conditions, then his winning the Nobel Peace Prize is something worthy of jubilation. His award can encourage more people to care about human rights in China, and this is certainly a good thing for Chinese folks.

Whenever we hear something that seems to be ‘smearing China’, we should not rush to respond. If that something is not based on facts, then of course it is a smearing remark. But if it is based on facts, then it is merely a friendly hint from our foreign friends. There is no call for feeling angry about it. If we want to know the facts, we must read more and listen more. Before criticizing Liu winning the award, why don’t we read more of what he wrote? In Hong Kong, you can access anything on the internet. So, please don’t waste this opportunity.

Sooner or later China will become a superpower. The question is: what kind of a superpower does it want to become? You, as mainland students in Hong Kong, should behave as role models and seek to persuade people in a rational manner. This way, you gain respect of the world.”

Here’s a link to the letter (in Chinese):-