A year ago, the Nobel Committee shocked the world by bestowing the Peace Prize on a surprised President Obama. This time, it's Chinese officials who are probably reeling, as the committee gave the award to Liu Xiaobo
, a dissident serving an 11-year prison term in China.
Liu was sentenced in 2009 for inciting subversion of state power. He is the co-author of "Charter 08," a call for political reform and human rights, and was an adviser to the student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Obama praised the selection of Liu, and called upon China to release him from prison. In a statement released by the White House, he said that although China has made "dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people" over the last 30 years, "this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected. We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible."
Liu's wife, Liu Xia, told CNN she is eager to visit him in prison in northern China and tell him the news. "I am totally shocked and feel so happy," she said. "I've never dreamed about this. Friends have asked me to prepare for a speech, but I've only prepared one for Xiaobo not winning the prize."
In a move that proved counterproductive, a senior Chinese official had warned the Nobel Committee that giving the prize to Liu would adversely affect relations between Norway and China, the New York Times
Liu is the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize, and his selection by the committee is likely to boost China's reform movement.
The committee said Liu, 54, deserved the prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." The announcement added that China's status as the world's second-largest economy "must entail increased responsibility" in providing freedoms for its citizens.
Given his detention, it is unclear who would accept the prize, which comes with a cash award of about $1.5 million.