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Liu & the Nobel: The Image

Nobel Commitee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland sits next to an empty chair with the Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma during a ceremony honoring Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2010. (AP)

Nobel chairman Thorbjorn Jagland at the ceremony:

Ladies and gentlemen, it has not been possible, as you know, for Liu Xiaobo or any of his close relatives to come to Oslo to receive the Nobel medal and diploma. At this stage in the ceremony, when we normally hand over the medal and the diploma, I place them in the empty chair held by Liu Xiaobo.

Statement of China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, on Tuesday:

By awarding this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to a criminal serving his sentence because of breaking Chinese law, the Norwegian Nobel committee’s move constitutes open support of illegal criminal activities in China and flagrant interference in China’s judicial sovereignty. The erroneous decision not only has met with firm opposition by the entire Chinese nation, but is dismissed by the vast majority of countries upholding justice in the world.

President Obama’s statement Friday:

One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice. Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.

The rights of human beings are universal – they do not belong to one nation, region or faith.  America respects the unique culture and traditions of different countries.  We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty, and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want.  But Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law.  The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible. I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year.  Today, on what is also International Human Rights Day, we should redouble our efforts to advance universal values for all human beings.

All of us have a responsibility to build a just peace that recognizes the inherent rights and dignity of human beings – a truth upheld within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In our own lives, our own countries, and in the world, the pursuit of a just peace remains incomplete, even as we strive for progress.  This past year saw the release of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, even as the Burmese people continue to be denied the democracy that they deserve.  Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta has continued his tireless work to build a free and prosperous East Timor, having made the transition from dissident to President.  And this past year saw the retirement of Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, whose own career demonstrates the universal power of freedom and justice to overcome extraordinary obstacles.

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