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Chinese immigrants respond to dissident's Nobel Peace Prize with caution

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize last week for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." The Alhambra Source asked local residents of Chinese background what they thought of the Nobel committee's decision. While the responses ranged from thinking it was a step in the right direction for Chinese human rights to an unfair move to award a dissident a prize, there was one sentiment that almost everyone we asked expressed: Even in the United States, the shadow of repression still kept Chinese immigrants from speaking freely.  For that reason respondents only provided last names or asked to remain anonymous.

“I think that awarding the Nobel Prize to the Chinese dissident symbolizes the importance of free speech. China is an economic power but lacks the freedom of speech. The prize to a Chinese person reflects what China is lacking, so I think it was a good move for the committee to give the prize to the dissident. I think when other Chinese people think superficially about why the prize was awarded to a Chinese man in prison, they think that there is something not right with the presentation. But I think if people look at the deeper meaning behind the prize, people will see that it's a good thing for China and the rest of the world.”— Ms. Tran, a resident of Alhambra for more than 10 years; translated from Cantonese

“The Chinese people, for the most part, are fearful of speaking on the topic of politics for fear of mistake…As a Chinese immigrant I can see how the general custom of not engaging in the political dialogue, that is learned from China, can still be a way of life for some Chinese immigrants living in America…I am leaning towards supporting Liu Xiaobo receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. If the government listens to its people more, I believe that a healthy conversation can exist where the goal of working towards a harmonious society can be achieved.”— Mrs. Chen; originally from Guangzhou, China; resident of Alhambra for more than 10 years; translated from Cantonese

“If I answer that I support it, it would mean that I agree. If I answer that I denounced it, it would mean that I disagree. There are so many angles that one can see from and each angle expresses a clear positive or negative opinion on the matter.”— A 20-something man; originally from Shenzhen, China (declined to reveal name for fear of political repercussions); recent resident of Alhambra; recent graduate of business school; translated from Mandarin

"I think every country and every government has its dark side and people need to look at the issue objectively. Although there is a lot of corruption going on in China, people's lives and rights have improved significantly over the past 30 years. It is true that the Chinese government needs to be more democratic and transparent with its operations; it is also true that right now the freedom of speech is still restricted to some extent in China; but all these need to be changed step by step. Forcing the western model of democracy onto a country with 1.3 billion people all of a sudden will create a chaos.”–Mr. Wang; originally from Shangdong province in China; resident of Alhambra for three years, recently moved to San Gabriel; translated from Mandarin.

The Alhambra Source also spoke with Ann Lau, who represents a small minority of Chinese-Americans who went out Friday night and publicly celebrated the award in a demonstration in front of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. Most of the participants were dissidents who left China because of human rights issues and students who just arrived in the US. Lau grew up in Hong Kong and heard of many stories about what happened in China and has seen many people who escaped from china to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution.

A small gathering at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles on Friday night“Liu Xiaobo represents the ideal of the Nobel Peace Prize. He fights for peace and human rights for his people. I’m very, very happy that the committee has the courage to give this award to Liu Xiaobo. The award is dedicated to not only Liu Xiaobo but also all human rights activists in China.

Liu Xiaobo has done a big favor in trying to bring out and promote democracy and human rights for people in China through non violent means. In his manifesto Charter ’08, he called for freedom of press, freedom of association, and freedom of religion for the people, and pushed for a lot of rights that are already enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is totally ridiculous that the Chinese government arrested him for that.

The Charter 08's points that Xiaobo supports for human rights reform in ChinaIt is really now time for PRC to look at the manifest Charter ’08 and realize that it is not a criminal document but one that sincerely asks the government to bring China to the global village. Despite its economic power, I think the Chinese government has not made any improvement in terms of protecting human rights. China needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of its treatment of the people.

By blocking information about the prize, the Chinese government is stopping its people from participating in what’s happening in the world. China is trying to teach its people not to think for themselves by shutting out information. Many tragedies in China including the Great Famine and the 2008 baby powder incident could have been avoided or more effectively addressed if the Chinese government had not tried to cover up information.”

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