Home > Embassy News
Ambassador Wei's Point of View on This Year's Nobel Peace Prize Choice

On December 12, 2010, Barbados Newspaper Nation published Ambassador Wei’s article in its Sunday Sun Extra—Focus. Here goes the transcript of the publication:

China Akin to Nazi Germany?

The following is a response by Chinese Ambassador to Barbados, Qiang Wei, to the latest China-West clash over this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, decided by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, that was due to be awarded to Liu Xiaobo yesterday.

Geirs Lundestad, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said this would be the second time that the Peace Prize was not collected by the winner, the previous time being during the German Nazi rule.

China’s stance of categorical opposition to the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision of awarding this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Mr. Liu Xiaobo is thoroughly justified.

This is the first time ever that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a convict serving prison sentence after standing fair and due trial and found guilty of breaching the law in a sovereign State.

I don’t think this is really about Mr. Liu Xiaobo, about whether he’s a good or bad guy. You may sympathize with him or loathe him—I myself am not terribly fond of his ‘China needs 300 years more of colonization by Western powers to become a real modern country’ theory.

The fact is that he’s a law offender by breaching Article 105 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China; and everybody, including Western opinion leaders, agrees that China, like all countries, must be ruled by law.

So it is essentially about whether a sovereign country’s law and judicial system deserve to be respected. The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision has been an insult, an expression of total disrespect to China’s rule of law and China’s sovereignty and an open encouragement to all Chinese dissidents to ignore and violate the rule of law in their own country. I’d assume any government, in whatever country, would be utterly upset confronted with such disrespect and threat to its national security and would be forced to adopt responding measures.

Nor do I think this is about freedom of expression—or lack of it?—in China. In my view, after over 30 years of reform and opening up, China is now a vibrant society which is among the world’s top publishers with over 2,000 newspapers and over 9,000 magazines and is home to millions of websites and over 200 million blogs, where more than 4 million blog entries or comments are made every single day, making the Chinese cybersphere the most populous ground for expression in the world.

In addition, nowadays as many as over 50 million Chinese travel abroad every year; and about the same amount of foreigners are streaming in and out of China constantly, a huge number of them residing on a permanent basis in China and mingling everyday with Chinese. Under such circumstances, how can anybody honestly believe this is a fear-filled and coerced society where people don’t enjoy freedom of expression? Now, another thing is undermining national security by abusing the freedom of expression. The border between freedom of expression and rule of law does exist, not only in China, but also in most civilized countries in the world. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which China is, by the way, signatory, says clearly that the freedom of expression carries with it “special duties and responsibilities”…“for respecting the rights and reputations of others” and “for the protection of national security or public order…”

It is not uncommon in Western countries to apply criminal disposition to individuals for seditious words or actions that threaten national security and social order. I doubt Wikileaks-style freedom of expression can be welcome by any government anywhere. If Western countries protect their values and political system by law, why doesn’t China have the right to do so? Is the current Chinese political system that bad that it deserves nothing but to be toppled down and replaced by the Western one? Then how could one explain all the widely praised—many times quite effusively by Western leaders—Chinese achievements in economic and social progress? Does a wrong and improper political system have real chances to lead and support sustained and robust economic and social progress on a massive—Chinese—scale? Does someone from China deserve the Nobel Peace Prize just because he happens to advocate Western values and seek to replace the Chinese system with a Western one? Isn’t that double standard?

Granted, China’s system is far from being perfect and does need to be continuously improved; and China doesn’t refuse to learn from the West. Quite the contrary, a lot of governance improvement-related dialogue and experience-exchange programs have been developed between China and Western countries at varied levels, to the satisfaction of the two sides. And I myself grew up witnessing China making big headway in democratic policy making, in ensuring people’s right to know, to participate, to express, to supervise, in the rule of law and in the international human rights cooperation.

I have no doubt about my country’s commitment to further developing democracy and human rights, not for accommodating foreign pressure, but out of our own need. However, we also know all too well that in doing so, it is vitally important for China to follow our own reality and our own way, not Norway, for the simple reason that the reality of the largest developing country in the world, with over 1.3 billion people, is not exactly the same as that of a highly developed Western country of less than 5 million people.

Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee admitted that this year’s Peace Prize was a ‘political decision’ and hoped it to provide ‘protection’ to the recipient and prompt changes in China. These remarks remind me of the old Cold War times and mindset. I thought—naively, I guess—more than two decades after the end of the Cold War that was supposed to end ideological divide, that mindset would have been a thing of the past. Now I see it seems to be still alive and well. However, it would be even more utterly naive to think that anyone could change China simply by exerting pressure on it with the old Cold War tactics.

Suggest to a friend: