2010 — Liu Xiabo, Chinese human rights activist

2010 — Liu Xiabo, Chinese human rights activist

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, currently a prisoner of conscience in China, for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” In making the award, the Nobel Committee stated that they have “long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace,” and that “such rights are a prerequisite for the ‘fraternity between nations’ of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.”

A 54 year-old former professor of literature at Beijing Normal University at the time of the Tiananmen Square, Liu was jailed for 21 months for his role in supporting students who had taken part in the peaceful protests.

In 1996, Liu was sentenced to three years of “reeducation-through-labor” as a result of further human rights activities. He was detained again on December 8, 2008, two days before the release (on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) of a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08, which he had helped to draft. On December 23, 2008, several eminent writers, lawyers, and human rights advocates released a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging Liu’s release.

Liu was formally arrested on June 23, 2009, on suspicion of “alleged agitation activities aimed at subversion of the government and overthrowing of the socialist system.” The US House of Representatives (in October 2009) and the European Union (in December) called for Liu’s release. On December 9, 2009, one year after being detained, Liu was formally indicted on charges of “incitement of subversion of state power,” and on December 25–after a trial failing to meet the minimum standards of due process–Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Shortly after the sentencing, he stated “I believe that my work has been just, and that someday China will be a free and democratic country. Our people then will bathe in the sunshine of freedom from fear. I am paying a price to move us in that direction, but without the slightest regret. I have long been aware that when an independent intellectual stands up to an autocratic state, step one toward freedom is often a step into prison. Now I am taking that step; and true freedom is that much nearer.”