I have joined many others in nominating Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize. There is a news release about this at the PEN website, as well as a copy of my letter, and a list of eminent PEN members– among them A. M. Homes, Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Ha Jin, Adrienne Rich, and Don DeLillo – who have supported the nomination. The Chinese government’s official reaction was to tell the Nobel Prize Committee that giving Liu the Prize this would be “totally wrong.” (No argument, no elaboration.) In the letter, I say this:
Liu’s writings express the aspirations of a growing number of China’s citizens; the ideas he has articulated in his allegedly subversive writings, ideas that are commonplace in free societies around the world, are shared by a significant cross section of Chinese society. Charter 08, for example, is a testament to an expanding movement for peaceful political reform in China. This document, which Liu co-authored, is a remarkable attempt both to engage China’s leadership and to speak to the Chinese public about where China is and needs to go. It is novel in its breadth and in its list of signers—not only dissidents and human rights lawyers, but also prominent political scientists, economists, writers, artists, grassroots activists, farmers, and even government officials. More than 10,000 Chinese citizens have endorsed the document despite the fact that almost all of the original 300 signers have since been detained or harassed. In doing so they, too, exhibited exceptional courage and conviction. One of them, for example, a teacher in Yunnan province, reported that police contacted her three times asking her to renounce the Charter and proclaim the signer was some other person with the same name. She refused. To stand up for Liu Xiaobo is to stand with a growing number of men and women like her in China; to stand with all those who advocate for peaceful change in the world’s most populous nation.