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Nobel Peace Prize 2010

Published: 03.01.2011, Updated: 04.03.2017
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Pre-reading discussion: Pre-reading discussion: How can an empty chair be a strong symbol of protest? And furthermore, how can anyone find pictures of empty chairs provoking?

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Controversial Nobel Peace Prize recipients

Empty Chair 空椅子 Empty Chair 空椅子 Through the years, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize has aroused both joy and anger. When the Prize of 1935 was awarded to the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, Hitler was infuriated. In 1964, many Americans opposed the awarding of the Prize to Martin Luther King for his fight for civil rights for African Americans. Almost 20 years later, Polish authorities prohibited the trade union leader Lech Walesa from attending the ceremony in Oslo, and in 1991, the Burmese followed the Polish example by denying Aung San Suu Kyi the right to leave her mother country.

Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

This year’s award to the Chinese dissident, Liu  Xiaobo, has proved itself a great challenge to Norway’s relations with China. Chinese  authorities instantly proclaimed that the Prize was an insult, and the leader  of the Committee was labeled as a clown. The Norwegian government hurriedly assured the Chinese that the decision was the work of the Committee, not the Government. This obviously did not calm down the Chinese; early on it became evident that Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11 year sentence, would not be released from prison. Furthermore, his wife and supporters were interned to prevent them from receiving the Prize in his place. Aside from now, the only time no one has met to receive the Prize was when Hitler prevented Ossietzky and his supporters from going to Oslo.

Chinese Protests

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony in Oslo on 10 December, China – Norway relations were edgy, the Committee’s computers were hacked and diplomats from 18 countries were more or less encouraged to stay away from Oslo on that particular day. Why does China fear a literature teacher and a spokesman for non-violence? China, with its 1.3 billion people, is coming up as a number two economic power after the USA. In recent years, this giant has experienced an enormous economic growth and, along with it,  increasing influence on world matters. Unlike the USA, China is not a democracy. The Communist party has been the only option for the last 60 years. There is a fear within the ruling party that increased wealth and an increased information flow in a modernised China may threaten the stabilty of the one party state.

Demonstration Ended in Bloodshed

On 4  June 1989,  the literature teacher Liu Xiaobo was a spokesman for students who peacefully demonstrated for democratic rights. The demonstration ended in bloodshed and ended hundreds of young lives, while  Liu Xiaobo got his first prison sentence for “counter-revolutionary propaganda.” Since then, he has continuously advocated  freedom of speech and non-violent methods to obtain democracy in China. In December 2009, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In his  defense speech, he proclaimed:

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth. “ At the ceremony in Oslo, the actress Liv Ullman performed this speech as a replacement for the traditional  Nobel Speech by the Laureate.

An empty chair in Oslo

When it became known that the Committee would leave an empty chair for the Laureate at the ceremony, Chinese web users instantly started posting pictures of empty chairs to mark the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. The authorities responded by closing  down web sites and prohibiting the characters for “empty chair” in Chinese. To prevent the media from reporting from the ceremony, CNN, the BBC and,  of course, NRK were blocked on Friday 10 December, and Chinese viewers could not witness Chairman Torbjørn Jagland’s saying, “Liu has only exercised his civil rights. He has not done anything wrong. He must be released”, whereupon placing the prize and diploma in an empty chair. Watch a clip from the ceremony on this link:  Nobel Peace Prize Laid on Empty Chair

Watch a clip from the ceremony on this link:

Nobel Peace Prize Laid on Empty Chair

True or false?

  1. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Chinese dissident.
  2. Hitler congratulated Carl von Ossietzky with winning the Prize in 1935.
  3. Many Americans did not think that Martin Luther King was a worthy winner in 1964.
  4. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Laureate from Vietnam.
  5. The Chairman of the Nobel Peace Committee is Jonas Gahr Støre.
  6. Liu’s wife came to Oslo to pick up the Prize.
  7. The Chinese blocked the characters for “empty chair”.
  8. The recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are usually controversial.
  9. Liu was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.
Key
  1. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Chinese dissident. (T)
  2. Hitler congratulated Carl von Ossietzky with winning the Prize in 1935. (F)
  3. Many Americans did not think that Martin Luther King was a worthy winner in 1964. (T)
  4. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Laureate from Vietnam. (F)
  5. The Chairman of the Nobel Peace Committee is Jonas Gahr Støre. (F)
  6. Liu’s wife came to Oslo to pick up the Prize (F)
  7. The Chinese blocked the characters for “empty chair”. (T)
  8. The recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are usually controversial. (F)
  9. Liu was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. (T)
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Discuss

  1. Is Liu a freedom fighter? Check this link Nobelprize.org
  2. Look at the list of Nobel Peace Prize recipients here: The Norwegian Nobel Committee .Do you have a favorite Laureate?
  3. In a Norwegian opinion poll almost 50% of those asked did not think that the Nobel Peace Prize should have been awarded to the Chinese dissident. When asked, the reason they gave, was that it was too harmful for Chinese – Norwegian relations. What do you think?