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2010年12月14日 (火)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 11
EDITORIAL: Nobel Peace Prize

The ceremony in Oslo to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize was not attended by the winner. Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer and dissident who won the award, remains imprisoned in China. Even his wife, Liu Xia, could not attend the ceremony because she was under house arrest.

No relative or representative was present to accept the award for the first time since 1935, when German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky won the prize. Nazi Germany blocked him and his supporters from attending.

Liu co-authored "Charter 08," which called for an end to one-party rule by the Communist Party. As a result, he has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for the crime of "inciting subversion."

Beijing continues to crack down on pro-democracy activists and human rights lawyers by house arrest or rigorous monitoring.

The Chinese public is denied access to broadcasts and websites critical of the government, including those related to Liu.

We urge the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience who are imprisoned only because of their thoughts and creeds. China should realize that muzzling the press undermines the nation's development in the long term.

China has rebuked the Norwegian Nobel Committee and filed a protest against the Norwegian government, which hosts the committee. It has also unilaterally suspended bilateral trade talks with the country.

Many countries invited to attend the ceremony were absent, apparently in support of China. The list of the absentees seems like a collection of nations with poor track records of freedom of speech, such as Russia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

It is regrettable that such Asian nations as Pakistan and Vietnam also did not attend the ceremony, expressing views that echoed Beijing's stance toward the issue.

It is true that the selections of the Nobel Peace Prize winners have reflected the international situations at the times and have had political implications. There was heated debate on the appropriateness of awarding the prize to U.S. President Barack Obama last year.

But one important role of the prize is to promote common international understanding of the significance of peace by provoking various debates.

The list of the past winners include Nelson Mandela, who fought against apartheid in South Africa, and Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the civil right movement in the United States. As a leading power in the 21st century, China is expected to take part in this tradition with a positive attitude.

Countries around the world should cherish the Nobel Peace Prize as a valuable legacy built by the international community over years, like the system of international human rights laws.

The countries that attended the ceremony should also make efforts to promote it.

President Obama, who has invited Chinese President Hu Jintao to the United States next year, should urge China to take steps toward improving its human rights record.

Japan should also seek candid conversations with China over human rights issues at occasions like bilateral summits.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan appears to be unwilling to touch on China's human rights problems for fear of straining relations, just as they were by the recent spat over the Senkaku Islands, and inviting unwanted effects on the Japanese economy.

In an apparent bid to undercut the Nobel Peace Prize, China has hastily created its own competing peace prize dubbed the Confucius Peace Prize. In its diplomatic activities, we hope China will practice the teachings of Confucius about how respectable men of virtue should behave and act.

If China does so, Japan and the United States would have to respond by trying to build relations with China like those among men of virtue.


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