For the first time since 1936, the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize was awarded in absentia. Today in Oslo, there was an empty chair on the stage where Liu Xiaobo, 54, would have been, were he not currently serving an 11-year term on subversion charges from the Chinese government. His wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest. Human Rights in China, the organization responsible for publishing Liu's writings in English, is based in NYC, and today the Times reported on HRC's director Sharon K. Hom's struggle to make it to the airport in time to fly to Oslo. A traffic jam in the Lincoln Tunnel seemed the perfect metaphor for her work as an activist, and, in a lede fraught with hyperbolic pseudo-poignancy, Times columnist Clyde Haberman determined the experience was "almost enough to make anyone think of herself as the victim of human-rights deprivation." Good thing they didn't take the Holland—that's worse than the Holocaust!
That aside, today's Nobel ceremony honoring Liu, who has called for changes to the one-party Communist system, led to China spearheading a 17-country boycott of the Nobel Prize, a list which includes Russia and Iran. Text messages bearing Liu's name can't be transmitted within China, and the Chinese government has called the Nobel committee clowns. The whole sticky, volatile mess is “absolutely politically tone-deaf,” Hom said. Rallies held in support of Liu's release were also held across the world; actor and activist Richard Gere spoke at one near the United Nations, reading from Liu's final statement, "I hope to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change. And to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love."
There was a dramatic reading of Liu's writing during the Nobel ceremony as well, but Thorbjoern Jagland, the chairman of the prize committee, told the audience no Peace Prize would be handed out, "We regret that the laureate is not present here today. He is in isolation in a prison in northeast China. Nor can the laureate's wife Liu Xia or his closest relatives be here with us. No medal or diploma will therefore be presented here today. This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate."