|Chinese 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Liu Xiaob|
China has long wanted a Nobel prize. Now that it has one, its leaders are furious. The Nobel committee awarded its peace prize to imprisoned democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo on Friday, lending encouragement to China's dissident community and sending a rebuke to the authoritarian government, which sharply condemned the award.
In naming Liu, the Norwegian-based committee honored his more than two decades of advocacy for human rights and peaceful democratic change — from the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989 to a manifesto for political reform that he co-authored in 2008 and which led to his latest jail term.
President Barack Obama, last year's peace prize winner, called for Liu's immediate release.
Anticipating the award, Chinese circumvented Internet controls and called friends overseas to learn the news. Supporters and friends gathered outside Liu's central Beijing apartment, where his wife was kept inside by police. At a park, a civil rights lawyer, a retired official-turned-blogger and a dozen other people cheered and waved placards saying "Long Live Freedom of Speech." The demonstrators were later taken away by police.
A buzz of congratulations coursed through Chinese instant messaging sites before censors scrubbed postings and blocked cell phone text messages that contained the characters for Liu's name. Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989, joined Obama and other leaders in congratulating Liu.
"Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I," Obama said. "That list now includes Mr. Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs."
The president praised China for its stunning 30 years of transformative economic growth. "But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected," Obama said.
Two years into an 11-year jail term for subversion at a prison 300 miles (500 kilometers) from Beijing, the slight, 54-year-old literary critic was unlikely to have found out about the award. Prisoners are restricted to state media, which mostly ignored the news. His overjoyed wife, Liu Xia, said she hoped to give him a hug and tell him if police allow her to travel to the prison on Saturday.
The contretemps points to the sticky predicament the prize poses for the communist leadership. Liu is the first Chinese and first member of the much persecuted group of political activists to be given the peace prize, but he is virtually unknown among ordinary Chinese. The award is likely to carry his name and his call for democracy to a wider audience, especially among young Chinese who are avid Internet and cell phone users but due to censorship know little of the rights camp's past struggles with the government.
The news about Liu Xiaobo continues here, at Yahoo News.
Related: Imprisoned Liu follows in footsteps of Suu Kyi, Sakharov (edition.cnn.com)