Today’s announcement that Chinese human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is no cause for merriment. It is a wake up call to all those who are either apathetic or naïve to the status quo in the People’s Republic of China, insulting as that name may be (Lui says it is the “people’s republic” under the “Party’s dominion).
First, some facts. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an eleven-year sentence in a Chinese jail. The crime: demanding reform to an anachronistic system (non-violently, by the way). In December 2008, Xiaobo authored Charter 08, a revolutionary document in the form of an open letter, which called for broad constitutional and political reforms. As a Western democrat glancing at the sub-headings – protect human rights; election of public officials; freedom of expression – it illustrates the grave problems that China is currently faced with. To us it would be a tick-box exercise of the rights and freedoms we already enjoy, at times indistinguishable from our very own Human Rights Act.
Apologists of China’s regime cite their “economic reforms” of privatisation and “moves towards capitalism”. These may be true and at times they are welcomed, but beyond the economic policy there remains a totalitarian regime who maintain their flagrant violations of fundamental human rights. As is stated in the preamble of Charter 08, the inclusion in the Constitution regarding the respect and safeguard of human rights “stops at the paper stage…there are laws but there is no rule of law…there is a constitution but no constitution governance”.
What can we do?
- I call upon pre/post university students and others embarking on a trip to China to make other plans. Visit Tibet instead!
- Try not to buy Chinese goods in abundance (realistically, I understand the difficulty this may cause, but use your best endeavours not to)
- Lobby your MP to raise the issues of Tibet, Liu Xiaobo etc in Parliament
- Donate to charities for the welfare of Chinese animals (only reason this important issue was not expanded on in the main text is because I would have said things I would in turn regret)
Lastly, never take our rights and freedoms, bestowed to us by the European Convention on Human Rights and, more recently, the Human Rights Act, for granted. As the late Lord Bingham famously said, which of these human rights would we wish to discard? We may bemoan the inequities of our own system (as we have the ‘right’ to do), but we should realise how lucky we are.