Hu Jia, Gao Zhisheng up for Nobel Peace Prize?

The Party is already having convulsions.

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) — Two Chinese dissidents are among this year’s Nobel Peace Prize contenders, prompting moves by leaders in Beijing to pre-emptively counter possible negative attention on their human rights record.

Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia are deemed top candidates by Oslo’s International Peace Research Institute, which handicaps competition for the award that will be announced Oct. 10. It’s preceded by Nobel prizes for medicine today, physics tomorrow, chemistry on Oct. 8 and literature on Oct. 9.

A decision by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo to honor Hu or Gao may increase tensions between the West and the government of the world’s most populous nation.

“I hope the committee will make the right decision and not challenge the original purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize or hurt Chinese people’s feelings,” said Liu Jianchao, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, on Sept. 25. The prize should go to those who “truly contributed” to world peace, he said.

We certainly wouldn’t want anyone to have his feelings hurt. But if these two guys didn’t contribute to the betterment of humanity and to world peace, no one did.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 29 Comments

I’d find it a lot easier to believe assertions from some people that the Chinese political elite is willing to change etc if this sort of nonsense didn’t happen.

If I had the opportunity, I’d ask Liu Jianchao how having either of these people as candidates to win would “hurt Chinese people’s feelings”. By drawing attention to issues that they’d prefer were swept under the carpet?! Geez, that guy has no shame in reciting such garbage.

October 6, 2008 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

Saw this rumour a couple of weeks back, and all I could think was, “Oh, that’ll go down sooo well.”

It’s a difficult call, I can understand why the committee are probably feeling frustrated at the lack of change they felt was promised by the Olympics. (That anyone ever believed change was going to happen just proves how little “the West” understands China.) However, those of us who have any understanding whatsoever of the concept of ‘face’ and the way it is put into action by the CCP and the fengqing know that giving the Peace Prize to Gao or Hu is really going to be counter-productive. It’ll just put their backs up even more.

October 6, 2008 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

Indeed, the Nobel Committee should be engaged in activities that would be less damaging to the Chinese people’s feelings, like wasting extravagant amounts of money on the Olympics or ignoring a food disaster that kills babies. As for nominating these two, well, that would just go too far, and I can tell you that many Chinese people’s feelings will be greatly hurt. I have to go and console some people right now!

October 6, 2008 @ 11:14 pm | Comment

Yeah, Nobel peace award, a precious medal in the time of global economic meltdown. LMAO.

October 6, 2008 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

However, those of us who have any understanding whatsoever of the concept of ‘face’ and the way it is put into action by the CCP and the fengqing know that giving the Peace Prize to Gao or Hu is really going to be counter-productive.

dish, as I think kevin implies, the awards should be given to those who deserve it, not those whose countries will be the least offended.

October 6, 2008 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

I don’t mind offending China. But. I really don’t think that winning the prize would help Gao, Hu, or their families and friends. In fact I believe it could make their situation even more perilous. Also I think it would cause the government here to clamp down even harder on any other potential human rights dissidents, thus actually worsening the human rights situation here rather than improving it.

Time and again it’s been proven that if you want to influence the Chinese government on these issues you do it privately, quietly and in a non-face-threatening manner. Giving the Nobel prize to a dissident is really counter-intuitive.

That said, as I noted in my first comment, this is a difficult situation. Gao and Hu have both done sterling work, and shown bravery and dedication far beyond what any of us dream of. It would be wonderful to see them rewarded, but I worry that if their ‘reward’ makes their situation worse, or causes the battles they’ve fought to worsen…well, it’s probably not going to be much of a reward then.

October 7, 2008 @ 12:35 am | Comment

I’m not sure how I feel about the thought of Hu or Gao getting the Nobel. To be sure, both of them have done good works and are unjustly imprisoned — but I wouldn’t put either of them anywhere close to the same boat as, say, Dag Hammarskjöld or Martin Luther King, Jr. (Or, on the other end of things, Henry Kissinger.) I think dish has it here: giving the Nobel to these guys will come off as looking like more anti-China sniping after a year of what has been perceived as intense anti-China sniping. I can’t see it doing much good.

That said, it could also depend on which of them it goes to. Hu Jia hasn’t done anything particularly terrible in the eyes of the law, other than thinking that the Olympics would protect him from the consequences of his work — but Gao is a repeat “offender” and outspoken defender of FLG (amongst other, less shitty causes), and has apparently been having a worse time of it in prison than Hu. (Amnesty says he was tortured in prison and may have attempted to commit suicide; I don’t know what their sources are on that, but they’re smart enough not to trust FLG sources like the Epoch Times.)

October 7, 2008 @ 2:18 am | Comment

dish/Brendan

I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not sure that giving a Nobel Peace Prize to any pro-democracy/anti-corruption figure ever does them any good if they’re in a politically repressive country. So does that mean such people should never be made nominees? Unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as the committee/body has strong evidence that the person may be seriously harmed as a result, I think they can make their own decision.

I would also say that not giving the prize, if either of them were judged the best person for it, would do little or no good. It might even cause harm, because the Chinese government might think “the more unreasonable we are, the easier it is to get our way”.

October 7, 2008 @ 2:39 am | Comment

I can understand why the committee want to give the prize to someone working for human rights. I don’t know enough about the other nominees to be able to make a judgement call on who is most deserving, thus I’ll have to trust the officials. I just hope that they aren’t influenced by the urge to make a political statement about China, and do judge each nominee on their own merits. (If either Gao or Hu did win based purely on merit, well, all I can say is, ‘poor guy’.)

If politics does influence the decision then I think it’ll be sad when the Nobel Peace prize ends up making the human rights situation worse in China. And I really do think that is a distinct possibility. (I’d love to be wrong here, but the CCP have a way of making my most cynical predictions the most accurate.)

Quote from the article Richard linked to:

Njaal Hoestmaelingen, a researcher at the Oslo-based Norwegian Center for Human Rights, said picking a Chinese dissident may be counterproductive to the cause. “The Chinese reaction may be to make such work far more difficult, and make it more difficult for Norway and other Western countries to collaborate with China on promoting human rights there,” Hoestmaelingen said.

That’s what I meant by ‘counter-productive’ in my first post. (Apologies if I didn’t make that clear enough.)

I would also say that not giving the prize, if either of them were judged the best person for it, would do little or no good. It might even cause harm, because the Chinese government might think “the more unreasonable we are, the easier it is to get our way”.

I think what the Chinese government says doesn’t matter nearly as much as what it actually does. If it means that the European governments have a better chance of working with the Chinese government for real, substantial improvements in human rights, then surely we can ignore the posturing and empty words?

October 7, 2008 @ 3:24 am | Comment

Ok, I’m going to try to clarify my last paragraph, and then I shall go to bed because it’s late and I’m not making much sense.

Be pragmatic. Ignore the propoganda. If they’re willing to quietly make positive changes, then who cares what they’re shouting about?

(Downside: there is also potential for them to shout about winning and then not make any internal changes. But I still think that offending them by having a very public head-on clash is worse because of the potential for serious internal backlash.)

October 7, 2008 @ 3:55 am | Comment

Hujia certainly did some great work in the 90′s, like volunteering in the campaign of protecting Tibetan Antilope and some other AIDS awareness related activities. He deserves a lot of credits for what he did and I don’t think the Chinese government gave him troulbe for these. But when a couple years ago he decided to take money from US government(NED, mind you) and became a political activitist, things have totally changed flavor. No government can tolerate it when some citizen of the country takes money from a non-friendly foreign government and openly calls for the overthrow.
But thanks to these foreign journalists, Hujia has been turned into an icon, a hero that fights the evil CCP in the heart of China. There’s no mentioning whatsoever about the connection between Hujia and US government, well at least none from the reports that I have read. They are all about the CCP harrasting and arresting an AIDS activitist, an environmental protection advocate and a human right acitivist.

October 7, 2008 @ 4:16 am | Comment

@wk
“No government can tolerate it when some citizen of the country takes money from a non-friendly foreign government… ”

That happens to be China biggest export market. Unfriendliness really takes here a new meaning!

October 7, 2008 @ 4:24 am | Comment

Do not bite (too much) the hand that buys (quite a bit) of your export products… ;-)

October 7, 2008 @ 4:29 am | Comment

I just hope that they aren’t influenced by the urge to make a political statement about China, and do judge each nominee on their own merits.

Yes, I can certainly agree with that. There is no need to make a “statement” in choosing the winner.

October 7, 2008 @ 5:33 am | Comment

Serious internal backlash occurs regardless of whether these people are given the Nobel Prize. They are, after all, in prison! It’s not as if they were just operating freely and happily until the Nobel Committee “interfered” in China’s “internal affairs.” The backlash argument simply fits into the logic of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” that allows the CCP to continue to exercise complete control over Chinese politics.
If either is picked, they certainly wouldn’t strike me as any less qualified than past winners; and if China can’t deal with people expressing opposition to the government in a nonviolent manner, then its attempt to cast itself as a world power is nothing but a sad joke. Let’s please refrain from turning the awarding of a Nobel to an imprisoned dissident into a pity party for the princelings in Zhongnanhai.

October 7, 2008 @ 7:00 am | Comment

What about Cindy Sheehan? She’s been working to stop an ongoing WAR and the occupation of another country.

Discuss

October 7, 2008 @ 7:19 am | Comment

Maybe I am prejudiced about Hu, having written about him so much. And maybe it’s relative. Is either Hu or Gao a Martin Luther King, who was once in a lifetime? Maybe not. But considering where they are (in China, and now in prison) and the risks they took to help others I see them as worthy candidates.

Tree, Cindy was unfortunately too eager for publicity and seemed to have reveled in her tragedy a bit too much. She had her brief moment in the sun, and now most people want to forget her.

October 7, 2008 @ 7:45 am | Comment

“Cindy was unfortunately too eager for publicity and seemed to have reveled in her tragedy a bit too much. ”

Isn’t it how it works in the US? You want your voice being heard by the audience and in GWB’s US, if your son was not killed in Iraq, you are not even qualified to talk about Iraq..

Let’s get serious here. Just because Hu and Gao are decent human beings who sacrificed a lot for what they believe, does not mean they are Nobel Prize worthy. What’s the impact of their work and sacrifice? Are they unique in the sense that without them, China’s human rights record would be worse?

Cindy Sheehan at least started a movement and a lot of people are influenced by them, like Code Pink.

October 7, 2008 @ 7:54 am | Comment

Actually, tree sitter, let’s really get serious here. Something tells me that you are not necessarily a close follower of the Nobel Peace Prize, and that the sole reason that you are interested on this occasion is because the possible selection offends a certain vision that you have for China.
Did Al Gore deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? I don’t know, I’d say “sure,” but I imagine that the only people who questioned his qualifications were dedicated anti-environmentalists. In your response to this, you would remind me of an old Southern racist who might say “there are so many people more qualified for that award than Martin Luther King.” This fact, combined with your knee-jerk “let’s bring up Iraq” reaction suggests to me that you’re a well-off person enamored of the Chinese Party-state, which is all fine and swell, but really doesn’t qualify you as a reputable critic for Nobel Peace Prize selection… I would recommend that you stick to something that you’re more familiar with, like suddenly bringing up Iraq in completely unrelated conversations.

October 7, 2008 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

@dish

“Time and again it’s been proven that if you want to influence the Chinese government on these issues you do it privately, quietly and in a non-face-threatening manner. Giving the Nobel prize to a dissident is really counter-intuitive.”

no, actually it has been proven by amnesty that if you bring these things up time and time again political prisoners tend to get better treatment and not be killed. examples of this would include wei jingsheng, those at tiananmen sqaure et al who probably owe their lives to the international attention. how long do you think someone like Aung San Suu Kyi would last without the spotlight?

i cannot think of any example of any change coming to China from someone whispering in the ears of the ccp. perhaps you can provide some examples? all this bullshit (and that is what it is – bullshit) about face is just so the Chinese can ignore criticism. they need to grow up and accept the fact that any country with 1/5 of the world’s population is going to get the spotlight, in much the same way the world’s only superpower gets the spotlight. stop throwing the toys out of the pram.

October 7, 2008 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

[...] to form, China is already irked by the  embarrassment this will cause them, a state of affairs for which the Chinese leaders [...]

October 8, 2008 @ 5:54 pm | Pingback

is there any one really went to china,ask the chinese what they really thought? or just you guys

thought?

October 10, 2008 @ 2:37 am | Comment

Wow, then Hu will be the first NED agent who receives Nobel Prize. Way to go CIA!

October 10, 2008 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

I think we can all sigh in collective relief that the Nobel Prize goes to some Finnish dude.

October 11, 2008 @ 9:26 am | Comment

[...] I posted a few weeks ago that I felt Hu was deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, I had an opportunity to discuss his career with friends of mine (Westerners involved in [...]

October 23, 2008 @ 11:21 pm | Pingback

[...] Abgesehen davon, so darf man sicher auch die Frage stellen, wer Hu Jia eigentlich ist und wofür er den Preis bekommen hat. Während westliche Menschenrechtsorganisationen und die westliche Medien Hu Jia als heldenhaften Kämpfer für Menschenrechte und Meinungsfreiheit feiern, finden sich in den Kommentaren dazu zahlreiche offenbar meist von Chinesen stammende Aussagen mit dem Tenor, Hu Jia sei ein von der NED finanzierter Agent der CIA. [...]

October 24, 2008 @ 3:45 am | Pingback

[...] whatever that’s worth. I started off two weeks ago under the Hu spell, and I said he would be the best choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. A friend of mine then made a healthy argument about why I was wrong, [...]

October 27, 2008 @ 10:15 am | Pingback

[...] Nobel prisen skulle uddeles argumenterede han for, at Hu Jia ville være det bedste [...]

October 27, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Pingback

[...] Nobel prisen skulle uddeles argumenterede han for, at Hu Jia ville være det bedste [...]

October 27, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Pingback

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