As Friday's Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Norway drew the world’s attention to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a protest was staged in Los Angeles to raise local awareness. At the Chinese Consulate, human-rights activists hoisting pictures of Xiaobo demanded the release of all Tibetan and Chinese political prisoners.
“We are here today to tell the Chinese Government that what they are doing is unacceptable,” the president of the Tibetan Association of Southern California, Pema Choden, said. “It’s the first time in 74 years that a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is absent from the ceremony. It’s unfortunate that Liu Xiaobo, who deserves the prize, was unable to receive it. The freedom of speech is something we, living in America, take for granted but people in China are deprived of.” She added that the same day was also the 21st anniversary of Dalai Lama’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
The demonstration, which drew about 30 protesters, was a joint event held by the Tibetan Association of Southern California and the Los Angeles Friends of Tibet, with participants from the Visual Artist Guild, the Asia Pacific Human Rights Foundation and other pro-human-right organizations.
At around 4 pm, demonstrators started calling out in unison “Free Liu Xiaobo,” along with the names of several Tibetan political prisoners including filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Rungye Adak. Amid demonstrators holding pictures of Xiaobo and boards listing the recommendations in the Charter 08, sat an empty chair. “We put a chair here to represent Liu Xiaobo like the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony did,” said Ann Lau, Chair of the Board of the Visual Artists Guild.
Some demonstrators were not affiliated with any organization but came out simply to express their support for human rights. Leslie Levy, a Caucasian women who was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest while studying acupuncture in China, stood in the middle of the line of demonstrators, holding over her head a tape-wrapped “torch.” “For the past 15 years I’ve been standing here as the Goddess of Democracy,” she said.
Although the public denouncements attracted much attention from passersby, not just negative emotion was expressed toward China. Jean Diep, a member of the Chinese Democracy Education Foundation who was a jailed dissident in mainland China 50 years ago and a resident in the United States for the past 12 years, said in Mandarin that he came here to “express my love and affection toward China.” He hopes that the Chinese government will be more open to different opinions from people like Xiaobo who protest with “no knife, no gun, and no violence.”
The Chinese-language newspaper, the China Press, which has an office in Alhambra and is in contract with the second largest state-run news service in China, had no coverage of local protests or the award ceremony. It's only coverage was a small article reporting that “China’s Foreign Ministry denounces the Nobel committee’s mistake.” A different perspective was shared from the Taiwanese owned Chinese-language newspaper World Journal, which reported on Dec. 10 that “President Ma Ying-jeou called on mainland China to release Liu Xiaobo.” Two other articles in the paper mentioned the Chinese government’s blocking foreign news websites including CNN and BBC on the day of the award ceremony and prohibiting anyone from going abroad to receive the award on Xiaobo’s behalf. The World Journal also reported on the award ceremony in Norway and that Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said that the fact that Liu Xiaobo is not allowed to attend the ceremony proved the necessity and appropriateness of awarding him the prize.