Dissident Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize has scared China's communist elites. The Beijing government has responded viciously by vilifying Liu and the prize selection committee. China's cyber-sheriffs have tried to keep news of Liu's award off the Internet. Its secret police shadow Liu's wife. The People's Republic's foreign ministry has even snubbed Norwegian diplomats engaged in discussions about the fishing industry.
Beijing's full-throttle propaganda, political and police overreaction speaks volumes about the party elites' insecurity seeded by their failure to address China's array of internal challenges. The Communist Party's apparatchiks, state billionaires and military princes know the war for the terms of 21st century modernity rages within their country, and it is shaking the foundation of their sophisticated and slippery tyranny.
But first some background. Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo earned his Peace Prize. Since 1989 and the Tiananmen Square massacre, Liu has insistently demonstrated the physical and moral courage promoting genuine change demands. 2009's dubious prizewinner, U.S. President Barack Obama, rhetorically encouraged hope. When Liu says "no" to China's single party political system, he embodies hope and inspires by visceral example.
Liu long ago joined the distinguished line of brave men and women trapped in police states who choose, in the name of liberty, to confront their nations' authoritarian ideologies and instruments of terror. Many of these heroes die unheralded in a jail or an alley or a ditch. The tyrants erase their memory and hide their sacrifice.
A fortunate few, like Liu, gain international notoriety. Fame provides a degree of protection for the dissidents, and a Nobel Peace Prize adds political armor. The peace prize certainly empowered and protected Lech Walesa when as he and his Solidarity union struggled against Poland's communist government and its masters in Moscow.
A Peace Prize, however, does not guarantee freedom of travel or even release from police detention. The 1935 prizewinner, German pacifist and fervent anti-Nazi Carl von Ossietzky, died of tuberculosis in 1938 -- his hospital bed monitored by the Gestapo. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 prizewinner, remains under arrest.
China is Myanmar's staunchest ally. A savage, impoverished dictatorship that brooks no dissent runs Myanmar. Cash-rich China is run by a silky smooth party dictatorship that stifles dissent.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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