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Talking Points, December 10 - 22, 2010

This edition of the USC US-China Institute newsletter focuses on Liu Xiaobo and discussions of human rights in China. As always, the newsletter offers a comprehensive listing of China-centered events and exhibitions across North America.
December 11, 2010

Talking Points
December 10 - 22, 2010

Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波 did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize today. Liu spent the day in jail,

Liu Xiaobo, b. 1955. 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate


where he’s been for the past 732 days. At today’s ceremony in Oslo, Liu’s Nobel diploma was laid on an empty chair reserved for him.

Prize recipients routinely give a short lecture. Because the Chinese government kept Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, and other possible representatives from attending, Norwegian actress Liv Ullman read from a statement Liu issued two days before his December 25, 2009 conviction. He wrote then, “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.

“In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.”

In his presentation speech today Nobel Peace Prize Committee chair Thorbjørn Jagland asserted that, “ Liu has exercised his civil rights. He has done nothing wrong. He must therefore be released!”

Earlier issues of Talking Points have discussed Charter 08, the manifesto that resulted in his arrest and conviction, the announcement of his award and the Chinese government’s reaction to it. Liu is far from being the only person in China who believes deeply in democracy and civil liberties. Many individuals work hard to draw attention to pressing environmental, health, labor, or ethnic concerns. There are lawyers who have stepped up to defend such activists and their organizations when they’ve come under governmental sanction or pressure. All are worthy of recognition and support as are those government officials who act to mitigate the problems the activists note. Liu’s, though, has definitely been among the most prominent, articulate, and persistent voices in arguing for a complete overhaul of China’s governing system in favor of a system that allows the governed to choose their rulers and ensures that individual liberties are protected. That is why he’s in jail today. And it’s why the Nobel Committee is honoring him.

In its 2009 verdict, the Chinese court ruled that Liu, in Charter 08 and other writings, had incited subversion to Communist Party rule and had used email and overseas websites to disseminate the essay. It explicitly rejected Liu’s claim that he was merely exercising his freedom of speech. Earlier this year, the Chinese government warned the Nobel Committee against recognizing Liu Xiaobo. Governmental spokespeople and state media have derided the choice, sometimes describing it as the latest effort by the West to use the issue of human rights to foster dissent within the country and derail China’s advance. Earlier this week Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told journalists, “I'd like to say, these people are putting on a self-orchestrated anti-China farce… China's policies are in the interest of the majority of the Chinese people and will not be disturbed by some anti-China clowns.”

In its announcement of the award and in today’s presentation, the Nobel Committee went out of its way to celebrate the economic progress China has made. Committee Chairman Jagland noted that China’s economy continued to advance while the US remains mired in recession.

The Committee no doubt expected the pressure from China and the criticism leveled against its choice. In December 2008, the European Parliament awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Hu Jia. Hu vigorously pushed the causes of HIV/AIDS sufferers and those affected by environmental damage. He pushed for the rule of law and for a formal inquiry into the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations and their suppression. Hu was jailed in 2007 and remains in prison. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, was able to send a video message shared at the award ceremony in Strasbourg. Just as they have been this year, China’s diplomats were mobilized. China's EU ambassador warned that recognizing Hu Jia would "bring serious damage to China-EU relations." Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao condemned giving the award to “a jailed criminal.” He described the award as “gross interference in China’s domestic affairs.”

The EU then and the Nobel Committee today reminded their audiences that they had previously recognized the efforts of people such as Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi who were imprisoned by their governments or individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr. whose Nobel selection in 1964 highlighted the gap between famed American promises of equality under the law and the reality of pervasive and corrosive discrimination.

In addition to condemning these Western committees for choosing individuals China’s government has incarcerated, China’s government has long worked to reframe the human rights discussion. This can be seen in the Chinese government’s annual assessment of human rights in the US, released at roughly the same time the US State Department releases its report on human rights in China (click here for the China report and here for the US report). This year a new twist has developed. In November, Global Times (published by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily) ran an opinion piece suggesting that a “Confucius Prize could be a weapon in battle of ideas.” Some academics in Beijing formed a committee and considered, they say, a number of possible recipients (including Bill Gates) for the award. The first Confucius Prize was awarded in absentia to Lien Chan, former Taiwan vice president, for his work fostering cross-strait dialogue. In their haste to make the award the committee failed to notify the recipient. At the ceremony, organizer Tan Changliu told the press, “We believe that Mr. Lien Chan, with his knowledge, dignity, and political wisdom, would not refuse peace, and he would not refuse this prize.” A local child received the statue and a cash prize on Lien’s behalf. On Wednesday, Lien’s office issued a statement: "There is absolutely no such thing as Lien receiving such an award. We have never heard of it. "




Millions of Chinese agree with their government and believe that the United States and the West are determined that China’s rise be contained and that raising human rights issues is merely a tactic in that campaign. Some even feel that individuals such as Liu Xiaobo are doing the 

Logo of the xinu.jinbushe website.
Click here to see a page from the site's photogallery.


West’s bidding. Last month a website briefly appeared attacking Liu and others as “western  slaves” included photos with nooses superimposed around their heads. The site, hosted on a US-based server, has been taken down. This represents, of course, the extremist fringe. Most of Liu’s Chinese critics simply complain that he proposes wholesale adoption of a Western model that is ill-suited to China’s unique culture and development experience.

There’s little doubt, though, that most Chinese also want greater transparency and accountability in government. Polls make it clear that a large majority of Chinese consider official corruption a serious problem and studies show that many appreciate recourse to courts, even when they do not prevail. Many Chinese are frustrated that political reform has progressed little beyond the village-level elections initiated two decades ago.




The Chinese government has gone to great lengths to keep not just Liu’s wife from traveling or talking with reporters, but to also detain and silence other critics and activists. Several are confined to their homes. Writer Yu Jie 余杰 is among these.

 Yu Jie, b. 1973


Yu Jie spoke at USC on October 7. He returned to China a few days later. Press reports say that he and his wife have been under house arrest since October 18. At USC, Yu discussed his controversial book: China’s Greatest Actor: Wen Jiabao. Video of his talk is available at the USCI website. Yu spoke on the eve of the Nobel Peace Prize announcement. He said he didn’t know if Liu Xiaobo would be recognized, but he wanted to remind the audience that Liu had argued China’s democratic future would be built from the bottom up, not from the top down. Yu ended his presentation saying Chinese should emulate Liu Xiaobo and speak their minds. Yu said that Václav Havel, the former Czech dissident who became president, put it well: one must strive to live freely, even if one doesn’t live in a free society.

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USC | California | North America | Exhibitions


12/18/2010: Historical and Cultural Preservation in China, Part 2: The Dunhuang Caves of the Silk Road
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101-2071
Cost: Free for museum members, included with museum admission for non-members: $9 for adult, $7 for students/seniors.
Time: 2:00PM - 4:00PM
Join the Pacific Asia Museum as they host Neville Agnew, who will present on preservation and restoration activities in China Road. 

12/18/2010: Paper Son Performed by Byron Yee
National Center for the Preservation of Democracy
111 N. Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Cost: $20/members $25/non-members
Time: 6:00PM
Byron Yee returns to the West Coast to perform his critically-acclaimed autobiographical solo show, Paper Son. 

North America

12/14/2010: From the Media to the Clinic: The Production of Desire in Urban Beijing
West Building Seminar Room
Einstein Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540
Time: 12:00PM - 2:00PM
Dr. Everett Yuehong Zhang will lecture on urban Beijing at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. 

12/14/2010: The Last Khan of Khans
Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education
1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Time: 2:00PM
New York City`s Metropolitan Museum of Art will screen "The Last Khan of Khans", a film by Takashi Inoue that presents the history of the Mongolian ruler, Khubilai Khan, and the ascension of the Yuan dynasty to power in China. 


ends 12/12/2010: A Refugee’s Journey of Survival and Hope
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
Address: 719 South King Street, Seattle, WA 98104
Cost: Adult $12.95 Senior $9.95 Student (age 13–18 or with student ID) $9.95 Youth (age 5–12) $8.95 Child (under 5 years old)- free Members- free
Seattle`s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience presents an exhibition of refugee stories. 

ends  12/17/2010: Art Through the Cultural Revolution and "From the Masses to the Masses: Art of the Yan`an Cave Artists Group" a film documentary
The Woodbury Art Museum at Utah Valley University
575 East University Parkway #250, Orem, UT 84058
The Woodbury Art Museum at Utah Valley University presents an art exhibit of Cultural Revolution art to complement a documentary film, "From the Masses to the Masses: Art of the Yan`an Cave Artists Group". 

ends 12/23/2010: Horse Expression: Nature vs. Culture
Bierwirth Room
442 Temple Street, New Haven, CT 06511
The Yale-China Association presents Horse Expression: Nature vs. Culture, by New Haven-based artist Lin Qian. 

ends 12/31/2010: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture.

ends 02/06/2011: China Modern: Designing Popular Culture 1910-1970
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101
The Pacific Asia Museum presents an exhibition that demonstrates how political ideologies and cultural values are transmitted via everyday objects in China.


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