What’s happened since Liu Xiaobo’s win?

Less than a week has passed since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” The fallout since then has been heated, and few China-related tweets go by without a mention of Liu or what his prize will mean for the prospect of political reform in China. Tiananmen veteran Wu’er Kaixi has argued that Liu’s win will give the West a much-needed chance to engage better with China and place pressure on it to improve its human rights record, while Kerry Brown has drawn parallels between Beijing’s knee-jerk response and China’s internal weakness.

The points below are a summary of the events that followed news of Liu’s win.

  • Elated reactions were rife on Twitter, as ChinaGeeks covered in the minutes after Liu was announced as the winner. Pro-democracy demonstrations led by human rights activists also quickly ensued in Hong Kong.
  • Chinese media censors blacked out broadcasts of the news. This was followed by the Foreign Ministry slamming the prize, calling it a “blasphemy” and an insult to the people of China.
  • Later that evening (8th October), Liu Xia travelled in police custody to the Liaoning prison her husband is serving his 11-year sentence in. Over the weekend, reports surfaced that she had “gone missing”, after her lawyer and concerned friends revealed they could not contact her. Eventually, she tweeted that she had met her husband, who, having cried upon being told of his win, dedicated the prize to the “dead spirits of Tiananmen.” She also added that his prison conditions had improved since the Nobel, with staff now giving him better food.
  • Also during the weekend, up to 30 Chinese intellectuals were detained, warned or placed under house arrest in an attempt to contain celebrations of Liu’s win. The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts reports that many were connected to a Stockholm-based freedom of expression group, of which Liu was also a member. Around 20 were celebrating in Beijing when police broke up the party.
  • On Monday it was revealed that Liu Xia had been placed under house arrest, and remains skeptical of whether she will be able to leave China to collect her husband’s award. Her phone has been cut and she is forbidden from leaving her apartment in Beijing. Journalists have tried to secure interviews with her, but to no avail: Al Jazeera’s Melissa K. Chan posted this clip of her own attempt today.
  • China also kept to its word when it told Norway that awarding Liu the prize could damage relations between Oslo and Beijing by promptly cancelling a meeting with a Norwegian fisheries minister. It also cut a Norwegian musical due to be performed next month in Beijing.
  • Finally, China Media Project translated an open letter penned by CCP veterans that called for increased freedom of speech, an abolition of censorship, and for there to be “no more taboos concerning our Party’s history”. However, confusion has sparked over whether the letter was indeed sparked by Liu’s win: at the bottom, it is dated 1st October 2010, seven days before the Nobel Committee awarded Liu the prize.



The Sino-Japanese downward spiral deepens

The claws are well and truly out. Despite Japan’s release of Chinese fisherman Zhan Qixiong on Friday, China was not satisfied. The following day, it promptly demanded an apology and compensation from Japan, which was just as promptly rejected. In an official statement, China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that it was “unlawful and invalid for Japan to detain, investigate or take any form of judicial measures against the Chinese fishermen and trawler.”

Zhan was also in agreement, affirming that the Diaoyu islands belong to China. “It’s legal that I go there to fish but it’s illegal that they detained me. I did not violate the law,” he said.

Japan, however, said China’s demand was “unacceptable.” It retorted that the Senkaku islands, as they are also known, belong to Japan itself, and Zhan was violating Japanese law by colliding in the disputed islands.

Since Saturday’s diplomatic faux pas on China’s part, which has unnecessarily deepened a quarrel that may otherwise have been able to rest, Japan has toughened its stance on the Middle Kingdom. Firstly, as the WSJ reports, it asked China to pay for the damage caused to the Japanese patrol boats after Zhan’s collision. “The ball is in China’s court,” Yoshito Sengoku, Japan’s chief government spokesman, said at a press conference today. Former Foreign Minister  Katsuya Okada was also quoted as saying, ”everybody knows that China is not a democratic country, but the latest demand will make that explicit.” Later this afternoon, it was also reported that the Japanese government ordered two Chinese fishery patrol boats to move away from the hotly contested waters.

The heat continues to be turned up. Meanwhile, onlookers are wondering who the winner is, if there indeed is one, as Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan writes:

You wonder what the rest of the countries in Asia are thinking.

Not only did China get its way, everyone else saw it, and saw how it was done, too. You can’t imagine Vietnam, with its own territorial dispute with China, feeling any safer. Or the rest of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations). Or South Korea. Or the people of Japan, as they watch their leaders capitulate.

Suddenly, everyone desires a referee in all this. Suddenly, everyone wouldn’t mind too much if the United States were around more often. China might have gotten its way this time, but perhaps at the cost of a more vigilant America.