Ladies and Gentlemen,
I send you greetings from Beijing.
Today, 10 December, is Human Rights Day, a day dedicated to the basis of freedom, justice and peace throughout the world. It is also the day that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. This day, which belongs to all of humanity, honours those all over the world who fight for peace. No other day has this double meaning, affirming the importance of respect for human rights.
Firstly, allow me to give you a brief summary of my experience of the Nobel Peace Prize. Two days ago, 8 December, was the third anniversary of the arrest of Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel peace laureate. It was the coldest day of this winter so far in Beijing. I set off for the neighbourhood where petitioners and homeless people gather because I wanted to help them resist the cold and their hunger. But the Beijing political police arrested me on the way, preventing me from going to this “village.” Why? I still do not understand this authoritarian government’s way of thinking. The Chinese Communist Party’s political police regards humanitarianism as its enemy. Not to speak of human rights.
While on my way to hospital to receive treatment on 9 August, I decided go to Liu Xiaobo’s home to visit his wife, Liu Xia, without the political police knowing. I was roughly intercepted by the guards who keep the home under surveillance. I asked them what legal grounds they had for preventing me from visiting friends and for restricting Liu Xia’s freedom. The police in charge of Liu Xia’s surveillance quickly arrived and held me for six hours. This is what happens when free citizens try to visit other free citizens. One of the three orders I received from the police in September was a total ban on going to Liu Xiaobo’s home to visit Liu Xia.
As a direct witness, I would hereby like to testify to all the government institutions throughout the world, to all the human rights organizations and to all the media that Liu Xia is being detained in a completely illegal manner and is leading a life bereft of any freedom. Even Liu Xiaobo’s brother cannot contact her. All the Chinese foreign ministry statements about her situation are just lies.
When someone becomes a political prisoner in China, their parents, spouse and children become political prisoners as well. The people directly responsible for these human rights violations in Beijing are Zhou Yongkang, a member of the party’s Politiburo Standing Committee, who runs the judicial system, and Liu Qi, the party’s Beijing municipal secretary, who is charge of governing the capital. They have abused their power in order to deprive citizens of their civic and democratic rights.
After visiting me in prison seven times in a month, the political police finally asked me on 10 December 2008, on behalf of the foreign ministry, public security ministry and the CCP’s Beijing municipal committee, to issue a public statement rejecting the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and rejecting my candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize. In exchange, I would be released on bail within two months in order to receive medical treatment, and I would receive double the amount of money of the two prizes. In prison, often with my hands and feet manacled, I repeatedly felt the desire to recover my freedom and be reunited with my parents, wife and daughter, who was then less than a year old. But all this could not happen at the expense of human dignity.
I knew that this prize and this nomination did not concern me but all the Chinese citizens who fight for human rights and who, because of that, are stripped of their own civic rights. Human dignity is not for sale. Principles cannot be broken. Morality cannot be compromised. This shows the moral and judicial influence that the Sakharov Prize and Nobel Prize have on the Chinese government. Regardless of its display of contempt and use of violence, it cannot win. The CCP’s leaders are very worried that these prizes could become a torrent of hot water on their frozen ground.
On the morning of 10 October 2008, I suddenly found myself being escorted from my cell in the distant Chao Bai prison in Tianjin to a prison in Beijing, on the south side of the city. The distance that my mother, wife and daughter had to travel for their monthly visits was cut by two thirds, reducing their fatigue. A year later, I learned that it was because I had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and because the 2008 winner had been announced that day.
I would like the world to know that being nominated for or being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize provides an unquestionable degree of protection for imprisoned dissidents in China, for those whose individual freedoms have been illegally suppressed. It improves the poor conditions in which they are held. Without it, their situation would be much worse. Liu Xiaobo can be expected one day to testify to the effect of the Nobel Peace Prize on his prison conditions.
Liu Xiaobo is in prison because he helped draft “Charter 08.” In the three years since its launch, 13,000 people have signed this charter – only one person out every 100,000 in China. This situation is a result of the terror and online censorship mechanisms that the Chinese leaders have imposed on Chinese society. I signed “Charter 08” shortly after my release earlier this year. My wife, Zeng Jinyan, was one of the first to sign it. At the moment of signing, I felt we were back in the era before the Olympic Games, where we signed many petitions about human rights issues. Back then, we often worked with Liu Xiaobo. I had not imagined that he would end up in prison as a reprisal for the charter.
In reality, Liu Xiaobo was not targeted personally. The CCP uses his jail sentence to intimidate all the other Chinese citizens who might continue to promote constitutional democracy. The charter describes the project for a Chinese society that is cherished by part of the Chinese population. We are just reaffirming universal values. Everyone is China has the right to express their vision of an ideal society without being intimidated by the Communist Party’s political police. I believe that the universal values outlined in Charter 08 will enter the Chinese constitution within the next 10 years and will be implemented.
Last year, in December 2010, the world saw the empty chair when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mr. Liu Xiaobo, a citizen of mainland China. A Nobel Peace Prize can often be a source of collective pride for a nation, a country or even a continent. The prize had finally come to China, and biggest and oldest authoritarian empire in the history of the world. I thank the Nobel Peace Prize jury for choosing a Chinese dissident.
The controversies that have arisen here and there, within China and abroad, do not matter. What counts is the fundamental principle of freedom. Every citizen accused of “inciting the overthrow of state authority” is innocent. They should be released immediately and unconditionally, and their good name should be rehabilitated. If we believe in justice and democracy, then we have a moral duty to Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia to ensure that China becomes a land where the right to personal freedom and free speech prevails.
Our adversary is the violent machinery of tyrants. We must resist and change the authoritarian system instead of allowing it to crack down on dissidents and human rights defenders. The authorities exploit our fear, our indifference and the grievances we hold against each other. In the eyes of the dictators, we are all targets for repression. There are no perfect human beings in the real world. Those we call heroes are just ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The hero is often someone who constantly has to overcome his own fears in order to keep fighting for freedom.
When we want to criticize others, let us first become the heroes of our own principles. In the face of tyranny, our fears stem from our own disagreements, which in turn exacerbate our fear. Let us put aside the differences in our views and in our behaviour and accept the weaknesses of human nature. When we join together and accept each other, we will form a counterweight to the autocratic pressures and we will restore the balance. During this icy political winter, let us reinforce our solidarity.
The Nobel Peace Prize website is blocked in China but the Chinese sense what the CCP’s “Beijing wall” wants to block. Like South Africa’s Apartheid regime in the past, China is now the world’s biggest democratic battleground. We have Liu Xiaobo, the blind civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng, the artist Ai Weiwei, the human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and others. We also have the hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens online and in the real world, who are fighting courageously for their civil rights. China’s democratization concerns the whole world. It is essential in order to guarantee world peace. China has undergone many wars and fratricidal conflicts. It is only by means of rational and progressive democratization that a peaceful transition will be achieved.
Today we celebrate the Arab Springs and we hope and prepare for the Beijing Spring. We thank the Nobel Peace Prize committee again for having chosen China. And we thank the world for supporting the Chinese people in its struggle for freedom.