Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Empty Chair

This Human Rights Day we pause to honor Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo by acknowledging the empty chair at the Nobel ceremonies. Amnesty International urges you to take action:
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo was charged with "inciting subversion of state power" and given an 11-year prison sentence on December 25, 2009 simply for co-authoring a proposal for political and legal reform in China. On October 7, the Beijing Municipal Higher People's Court upheld Liu Xiaobo's prison sentence. Urge Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally.
And we urge you to slip in a reference to Group 22 Pasadena's Chinese prisoner of conscience case Gao Zhisheng too. Check out the Globe and Mail's profiles of a courageous "Gang of 10" dissidents to watch, including Gao. To learn more about Liu Xiaobo, visit PEN's resource page.  You might also want to check out PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah's piece on Liu in Foreign Policy: China's Burden of Shame which also mentions Gao. The NYT offers a Liu poem today.

Rights Readers authors have commented on Liu Xiaobo's plight and it's implications for the future of Chinese democracy.  Here's Orville Schell (Mandate Of Heaven) on PBS Newshour.  And Ma Jian (The Noodle Maker) writes in the Scotsman,
Though now better off than they have ever been in material terms, the Chinese people are denied any real opportunity to retain and refine their own dignity beyond the quest for wealth and luxury goods.   Liu's prize is a rebuke to the regime, because it rejects the dogma that nothing but the pursuit of economic interest matters.

Death in the Andes: A Novel We wouldn't want to overlook the Nobel Literature Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa.  Many years we enjoyed reading Death in the Andes.  Rights Readers author Daniel Alarcon (Lost City Radio) reacts to the news of his award on WNYC and offers up a bit of fan worship in the Paris Review.  Vargas-Llosa's Nobel speech is well worth the read for this thoughts on reading, exile, and human rights, not missing the chance to acknowledge the empty chair himself,
...a dictatorship represents absolute evil for a country, a source of brutality and corruption and profound wounds that take a long time to close, poison the nation’s future, and create pernicious habits and practices that endure for generations and delay democratic reconstruction. This is why dictatorships must be fought without hesitation, with all the means at our disposal, including economic sanctions. It is regrettable that democratic governments, instead of setting an example by making common cause with those, like the Damas de Blanco in Cuba, the Venezuelan opposition, or Aung San Suu Kyi and Liu Xiaobo, who courageously confront the dictatorships they endure, often show themselves complaisant not with them but with their tormenters. Those valiant people, struggling for their freedom, are also struggling for ours.
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