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9th October 2010. On Friday, 8th October, the Nobel committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a vocal activist for political reforms in China who is now serving a prison term for demanding his rights as a Chinese citizen. As a co-drafter of Charter 08 that calls for increasing the constitutional rights of the Chinese people, he has added much to the new political discourse in China.
The Chinese government could have seen the Peace prize as a wake-up call to make the necessary constitutional amendments that allow ordinary Chinese citizens more freedom, and to make them feel that they too have a say in the government, instead of reacting strongly to it as it has done. The more the Chinese state denies its people their rights as free citizens, the more it is vulnerable to outsiders’ criticisms and discontent of its own people.
After Deng Xiaoping’s rise to power in the 1970s, China embarked on economic reforms and today it has made tremendous progress in improving the lives of its people, which is appreciated by all nations. China has accomplished a lot economically in a short span of three decades. However, politically speaking, China leaves a lot more to be desired. It is not to say that there have been no political reforms whatsoever. There certainly have been and, as a result, Chinese citizens today enjoy rights that were unimaginable even 20 years ago. However, the pace of these reforms have been really slow and not at par with people’s democratic aspirations. Perhaps, it is safe to say that with all the state’s energy and resources focused on economic reforms, political reforms took a backseat. Now the time has come to supplement economic reforms with political.
No state has been successful in suppressing voices that call for reforms. And because China has time and again proved itself to be a responsible nation domestically and internationally, we have every reason to believe that the Chinese state would do the needful to address the political aspirations of its people. The international community is closely watching China and the onus is with the Chinese state to show that it respects the sentiments of its citizens as well as well-wishers abroad. This means speeding up the pace of political reforms, releasing Liu, along with other political dissidents serving prison terms, and instead of blacking out news of Liu being awarded with the Nobel Peace prize, celebrating it