The Fiction question
We are in the very midst of award season at the moment, today there is a lot of buzz about the Man Booker announcement, and the unprecedented move to grant the award to a comic novel, for the first time in the history of the prize.
There was nothing comic about the announcement last week, that the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to Chinese human rights activist, Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11 year sentence on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”. Once upon a time, he co-authored "Charter 08", a bold call for political reform, including increased freedoms and democratisation in China.
Today a group of 23 Chinese Communist Party elders, including the former editor of the official People's Daily newspaper, have written a letter calling for an end to the country's restrictions on freedom of speech. The letter is addressed to China's parliament, and calls for a lifting of restrictions regarding internet use, and increased respect for journalists. Ironically, although they made the letter widely available on web sites, it has been taken down from a large number of them already, in a timely demonstration of the arbitrary censorship that the 23 authors take issue with.
The next chapter of this tale is still more poignant, as we learn of the plight of Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo, who is currently under house arrest, like a princess in a tower. The “baddies” in this narrative seem to be embracing the Machiavellian stereotype wholeheartedly: Chinese government security personnel patrol the grounds, and Liu has reported that two successive mobile phone hand-sets have now been confiscated. A sign on the gates of her Beijing home, reads “NO INTERVIEWS”.
However, instead of waiting to grow a ladder made of her own hair, Liu Xia has been tweeting from inside her home, and even managed to give one clandestine interview to AP, over a smuggled mobile phone, in which she condemned the Chinese authorities, and her “illegal arrest”. She clearly remains defiant and undeterred. It is still unclear whether she will be allowed to collect the Nobel award in December in her husband’s stead. When questioned about this, a Chinese official did not specify, and again publically criticised the Nobel committees’ decision to award the prize to a “convicted criminal”, as well as the international calls for Liu Xiaobo’s release which have followed.
All of this sounds very much like the stuff of novels. But this is non-fiction and anything could happen. You can take up the pen yourself, and take action on behalf of imprisoned Chinese author, Nurmemet Yasin, here, and for human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, here.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.