CECC Cochairs Mark Five-Year Anniversary of Liu Xiaobo Receiving the Nobel Prize, Annual Observation of International Human Rights Day

CECC Cochairs Mark Five-Year Anniversary of Liu Xiaobo Receiving the Nobel Prize, Annual Observation of International Human Rights Day

Congressional-Executive Commission on China

December 10, 2015

(Washington, DC)—On December 10, 2010, Liu Xiaobo, a writer, professor, human rights activist and one of the chief authors of Charter 08, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” He was the first Chinese national and resident in China to receive the prestigious award. However, he was unable to claim his prize; he was serving an 11-year sentence in Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning province, some 4,000 miles from Oslo, after being found guilty of “inciting subversion.” 

His wife, the artist and poet Liu Xia, was placed under illegal home confinement in Beijing shortly after the Nobel committee’s announcement of the prize in October 2010. She remains there five years later, despite never having been charged with a crime. Troubling reports indicate that her health has deteriorated during the past two years of her confinement.

On the occasion of the five-year anniversary of this shameful day, a day which coincides with International Human Rights Day, Congressman Chris Smith, chair, and Senator Marco Rubio, cochair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, issued the following statements:

“Liu Xiaobo is the only Nobel Peace Prize Laureate currently in prison. He was jailed for daring to say that human rights should be protected in China. This is apparently a dangerous idea for China’s Communist leaders, who have gone to great lengths to silence dissent and control civil society in recent years,” said Chris Smith, CECC Chair. “China’s leaders fear the ideas Liu Xiaobo so courageously advocates, when they should embrace them as the best hope for China’s future. The hard-won truth of history is that stability and prosperity can only be maintained through the advance of liberty, transparency, and the protection of fundamental human rights. President Xi wants a ‘new type’ of relationship with the U.S., but continues to pursue repressive policies rooted in China’s past. Every day Liu Xiaobo remains incarcerated; every day his wife Liu Xia remains arbitrarily detained; every time China denigrates another Nobel Laureate, the Dalai Lama; and every time another rights advocate or religious leader is jailed or disappeared is another blow to China’s international prestige and another obstacle to better U.S.-China relations.”

“This week marks the five-year anniversary of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize—a prize which he has not yet been free to claim. The anniversary aptly coincides with International Human Rights Day, when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which China was not only a signatory but also an original drafter. Enshrined in the document are a variety of rights and protections to include freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and conscience, and freedom of movement. Sadly these God-given rights remain elusive for millions of Chinese citizens including Liu,” said Senator Rubio. “His continued unjust imprisonment as a result of his peaceful struggle for political reform is cause for great concern and a source of significant strain on our bilateral relationship with China. Each day that Liu Xiaobo and his wife are denied their most basic rights is one day too many. I look forward to the day when Liu is a free man and can claim his rightful prize. He, and countless others like him who courageously seek change in China, are heroes worthy of honor, not criminals deserving punishment.”

The cochairs further noted with concern that the Chinese government continues to actively repress those who seek to advocate rule of law in China—as espoused in the historic Charter 08 manifesto—evidenced by the July 2015 crackdown on human rights lawyers and legal advocates during an unprecedented nationwide sweep. More recently, the Chinese government has placed travel restrictions on some lawyers and harassed the family members, including minors, of other human rights defenders.

Earlier this year, the CECC launched an initiative called “Free China’s Heroes,” in which individual political prisoners were highlighted to raise awareness about the specifics of their cases and the status of their unjust imprisonment. Liu Xiaobo, who was initially detained seven years ago on December 8, 2008, was the first prisoner featured. His case is also part of the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database (PPD), which contains records on more than 1,300 political and religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned. The Commission treats as a political prisoner an individual detained for exercising his or her human rights under international law, such as peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and free expression, including the freedom to advocate peaceful social or political change and to criticize government policy or government officials. In most cases, prisoners in the PPD were detained or imprisoned for attempting to exercise rights guaranteed to them by China’s Constitution and law, by international law, or both.