Authorities in China moved swiftly on Friday to block news of the Nobel Committee’s decision to award the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed pro-democracy activist and literary critic currently serving an 11-year sentence in a northern Chinese prison.
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported that live coverage of the event by CNN and the BBC was blacked out by government censors, and there was no mention of Liu or the Nobel Prize on sina.com, the country’s popular search engine. Even text messages containing Liu’s name seem to have been blocked.
However, efforts to expunge any mention of Liu from the Internet in China seem to have failed. The ruling Chinese Community Party has long blocked outside social networking sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, from the country, but the outpouring of support for Liu has nonetheless found a venue for expression on Twitter. Chinese bloggers, pro-democracy activists and regular citizens have turned to the micro-blogging site to debate the Nobel Committee’s decision and offer their thoughts on the award’s political implications.
Michael Anti, a Chinese journalist and political blogger, wrote one of the most popular Twitter posts on the news of Liu Xiaobo’s impending award on Thursday:
If Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize this year, I will treat any Norwegian as my beloved countryman.
After the news broke, Anti followed up with another expression of support for Liu that encapsulated the feelings of Chinese Twitter users, many of whom have since re-posted Anti’s message:
Thank you Norway, you just gave Chinese people a chance towards the bright future!
Like many of Anti’s followers, Chinese Twitter user @yinwm joined the pro-democracy blogger in his calls for Liu to be freed:
O God, Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize! Please release him now!
But not everyone in China took pride in Liu’s award. Julius Hui, a Twitter user from Hong Kong who describes himself as a type designer, expressed unease at the Nobel Committee’s decision, fearing the award would further strain ties between China and the outside world:
Feeling sad while Nobel Prize has just become a sign of power struggling between China and West.
Another Twitter user in Shanghai, Wang Yifei, responded by placing the blame on the Chinese Communist Party, writing that, “As long as CCP is in power, it will always be like this.” Yifei acknowledged in a follow-up that the “Nobel Peace Prize is always political.”
Hui responded with a concern echoed even by some of Liu’s fellow pro-democracy activists, who have protested the decision by the Nobel Committee on the grounds that Liu’s activism has failed to stir much progress toward reform:
I’m not neglect Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s effort but what he actually did never make any relations with ‘Peace’, so as to Obama and Dalai Lama.
Nonethless, most of the reaction by Chinese Twitter users to the news of Liu’s award was positive. Some, such as a doctoral student at the University of Hong Kong, lamented the Chinese government’s strident response, including the foreign minister’s threat to punish the Norwegian government for the decision:
Gov’t threatens Norway w/ diplomatic consequences, forcibly relocates prize winner’s wife, & uses Sinopec drills to dig deeper hole.
Obama welcomes Nobel Peace Prize for Mr. Liu Xiaobo: “We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu”
Mostly, though, the reaction of Chinese Twitter users to the news of the Nobel Committe’s decision was confined to simple expressions of hope and pride. One such message was offered by user @xshhhm, a masters student studying image processing in Beijing, who posted a link to his blog celebrating the news:
Greetings to the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate-Mr. Liu xiaobo.