A Big Day
It’s dark in Norway in the winter. Believe me – with my Scandinavian roots, I know. But the Norwegian winter pales in comparison to the darkness of Liu’s Xiaobo’s prison cell. Let today’s ceremony in Oslo conferring him the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia shine a light on human rights defenders everywhere. As grim as it may look inside China today, people around the world will gather to honor him in Oslo. Congratulations, Mr. Liu.
From where I am writing in the Free World, or from where you sit reading this, we can defend human rights without fear of being detained.
As we celebrate Human Rights Day today, we are also proud to launch this new blog, which will focus on human rights developments in Radio Free Asia’s broadcast region. We’ll look at the state of human rights in Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, North Korea, Vietnam and the region at large.
On 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. It was the first time that any international institution put forth the idea that there are basic human rights that need to be universally protected. This document is the basis of international human rights law. Its premise is that these fundamental rights are are the ”foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
We recognize and honor Liu and individuals like him today.
It is fitting that the Nobel award to Liu is also being conferred to him on this auspicious day. He will receive the Prize for his ”long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Liu was one of the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen protests and was detained and arrested afterward. He was one of the leading authors of Charter 08, which was published two years ago today and written to promote human rights and democratization in China. Over 10,000 people have signed the Charter.
In December 2009, Liu was charged and sentenced to eleven years in prison for ”inciting subversion of state power”; his sentence also includes two years of deprivation of his political rights. Today, as Liu sits in his prison cell at Jinzhou prison, his wife is under house arrest, and his supporters have been denied exit visas from China in advance of the Prize ceremony.
The theme of this year’s Human Rights Day is ‘’human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.’’ There is no one more deserving of the title Human Rights Defender than Liu. There are thousands more like him around the world standing up for justice. Many people who defend human rights do this at great cost: they are subject to discrimination, interrogation, arrest and imprisonment; their families are threatened and their safety is at risk. In defending freedom, they often give up their freedom.
As our blog shines the light on rights abuses, we hope it won’t all be bad news. We’ll also highlight efforts that are being made to end them.
Our aim is to bring greater transparency to rights abuses in Asia and in doing so, help to end them. Just a few weeks ago, Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was released. RFA’s Burmese service will begin hosting an exclusive listener forum with her.
We hope that the newest Nobel Laureate will soon be released. China is the only country holding a Nobel Peace Prize winner in prison.
Radio Free Asia exists to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press. The very fact that these countries don’t allow a free press is in itself a violation of human rights.
We will look at a range of topics including freedom of speech, expression, religion and assembly as well as the consequences of living without them. We’ll explore what it’s like to live under One-Party Rule and totalitarian-led regimes. We’ll monitor the trials of dissidents and activists. We’ll go in depth on human trafficking, child slavery and prostitution. We’ll keep an eye on media and press freedom, too.
What Human Rights?
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” says the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Throughout the world and across Asia, people are denied basic human rights. Without respect for human rights, security and peace are at risk, as well as economic and social development.
Despite the increasing rights abuses across the region, we may still see light at the end of the tunnel. Liu will also eventually emerge from his dark cell.
Welcome to Free For All. I look forward to your comments, your ideas and your readership.