Pelosi: Awarding of Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo a Momentous Occasion for Democracy Movement

Dec 07, 2010, 18:53 ET from Office of the Speaker of the House

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of a resolution congratulating imprisoned Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo on the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.  The House will vote on the resolution tomorrow.  Below are the Speaker's remarks.

"Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for giving us this opportunity to talk about Liu Xiaobo on the floor of the House today.  I especially want to thank Chris Smith, the gentleman from New Jersey, Frank Wolf, Dana Rohrabacher—three Members whom I heard speak on the subject—I know many others have, including David Wu, for their commitment to democratic freedoms in China.

"Even before Tiananmen Square, many of us met with our former colleague, now gone from us, Tom Lantos, to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 1987 I think it was.  A couple of years later, we saw what happened in Tiananmen Square, and at that time, as advocates for human rights throughout the world, we were advocating for human rights in as China as well.  For a long time, we had that debate.  We were joined them by our colleague David Wu and others in this important statement that said if we are advocating for human rights throughout the world, which this Congress has done over and over again, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in the rest of the world if we do not talk about human rights in China despite the commercial interest do we have in China, despite a number of other issues that have been called to our attention.

"And so, the news that the Nobel Committee had awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo came to good news to those of us who have been calling attention to this issue for a very long time.  Congressman Smith was instrumental in nominating Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Prize.  He has been a fighter—he and Frank Wolf; how many times did you go to China, visit the prisons, and the rest?  On this score, Mr. Rohrabacher has been relentless.  And so for us this is a very important occasion.  Not only that he is receiving the Nobel Prize but that this Congress is recognizing that prize as well.

"It is appropriate that the Nobel Peace Prize has been called the most prestigious prize in the world.  It is appropriate that in 2010, Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo joins the illustrious group of former recipients.

"On Christmas Day 2009, Chinese authorities sentenced Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison for 'inciting subversion of state power.'  It was a harsh sentence that disrespects the rule of law and the freedom of Chinese citizens to express their opinions, which is even guaranteed in the Chinese constitution.  Liu Xiaobo is still in prison today, and his wife has been put under house arrest.

"Liu Xiaobo is one of the original signers of 'Charter 08,' an online petition calling for new policies to improve human rights and democracy in China.  Mr. Liu wrote: 'The most fundamental principles of democracy are that people are sovereign, and that the people select their own government.'

"'Charter 08' now has over ten thousand signatures, many of whom have been harassed and intimidated by Chinese authorities.  The courageous efforts by the signatories of 'Charter 08' to express themselves in the face of arrest and detention are truly an inspiration around the world.

"And one of the things that we have done in the past decade is to make sure that those who have been arrested for expressing their views, whether they be religious or political, is that they are not forgotten.  One of the techniques of imprisonment is to tell those who have been arrested that: 'On the outside, nobody even remembers you; nobody cares that you are here; they have forgotten you and all that you have done.'  And of course, with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, what greater spotlight could there be placed on freedom of expression in China?

"The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize for the first time to a Chinese citizen is a momentous occasion for the Tiananmen democracy movement.  Liu Xiaobo was arrested in Tiananmen Square in 1989.  At the time, he was on hunger strike to protest martial law and support peaceful negotiations with the Chinese students.  He has spent many years in Chinese prison camps for only exercising his right to free expression.

"The Nobel Peace Prize is a testament not only to Liu Xiaobo, but Chinese dissidents—many, many Chinese dissidents—who have sacrificed so much in pursuit of freedom and democracy in China.

"Today, the House of Representatives is congratulating Liu Xiaobo on the Nobel Peace Prize and sending a clear message of support for human rights and democracy in China.  We do this in recognition of the importance of the relationship between China and the United States, that we have many issues where we have common ground or where should seek common ground.  But all of that is better served by candor in our friendship and not ignoring sore spots.

"We continue to call for Liu Xiaobo's immediate and unconditional release, and for the Chinese government to listen to the many Chinese citizens who are calling for human rights and freedom in China."

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House