Some thoughts on Mr. Jagland's Article on Aftenposten

  • Under The Pen Name Of Guo Jisi)
  • Guo Jisi (the Article Was Written By A Group Of Scholars On International Relations And International Law From China Institute Of International Studies
Thorbjørn Jagland is Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
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Recently, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and some other Western critics published some articles, trying to justify the Committee's decision to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. However, instead of providing answers, many of their opinions bring about even more questions from the readers.

The articles put forth many controversial assertions. They tried to imply that human rights are superior to sovereignty and that the international community has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of China. Some presumption that the author called "universal" is far from universal. There is no consensus among the international community on such concept as "human rights are superior to sovereignty". States are still fundamental elements constituting international relations. Sovereignty tolerates no violation. Domestic affairs of states should not be intervened. These are still the fundamental principles of international laws, as emphasized by 2005 World Summit Outcome.

At the same time, the UN Charter and many other United Nations documents affirm that sovereign states shoulder primary responsibility in protecting and promoting human rights. Human rights can be safeguarded only when a state's independence and sovereignty are guaranteed. In this sense, the sovereignty of a state is the very foundation for its people to enjoy freedom and rights, which has been well demonstrated by the history of many Asian and African countries including China.

The one-sided emphasis on human rights' superiority will only put peace and human rights in jeopardy. Madam Roland said, "O liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!" before she died during the French Revolution. Yet, today, such hypocritical conducts of carrying out imperial activities under the noble name of freedom are not rare. The attack by NATO on former Yugoslavia and the Iraq war since 2003 were both conducted in the name of rescuing the people out of atrocity. However, many believe that both wars had hidden agenda and both have led to humanitarian crises and violation of human rights on the ground.

The concept of human rights superiority becomes even more arguable when the Western powers always intervene while the developing countries can only be intervened. United States' refusal of rights groups' visit to Guantanamo Bay detention camp well iIlustrates that such concept cannot even be applied to those who advocate it.

Mr. Jagland and his Western colleagues spared no efforts in emphasizing the value of freedom of speech. It is agreed that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, but freedom of speech certainly does not mean one can say whatever he wants. As Charles de Montesquieu said that liberty is the right to do what the law permits. There is no absolute freedom in the world. Absolute freedom will only bring anarchy and infringements on the rights of others.

While recognizing the freedom of expression, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ( ICCPR) emphasizes that the exercise of such rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and it may therefore be subjected to certain restrictions for respect of the rights or reputation of others and the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals. The Covenant also clearly stipulates that propaganda for war or advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred shall be prohibited by law. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and other international conventions also set out restrictions on freedom of expression.

Based on the above, some countries set up certain restrictions in their laws on expression, such as speeches inciting subversion, undermining national security and social stability. The US Code 2383 provides that whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States shall be fined or imprisoned. The Treason Act 1351 of the United Kingdom also stipulates that "when a Man doth compass or imagine the Death of aur Lord the King ... ought to be judged treason." In addition, laws of Singapore, Australia and Canada also include articles on subversion. It is unfair to point finger at Chinese law without regard to same or similar terms in international laws and laws of other countries.

It is even more surprising to see that the incident of the cartoon depicting Prophet Mohammed was cited in the articles as an example of freedom of expression. Such incidents causing religious and racial hatred have already triggered international condemnation and violated international human rights instruments.

In their articles, Western critics imply that Chinese are not open to different voices. Quite on the contrary, being open to constructive criticism out of goodwill has long been a virtue of the Chinese culture. But what the Chinese people do not accept are attacks against China's judicial sovereignty, rhetoric trying to impose one's own value upon others or awarding Nobel Peace Prize to persons aiming at separating China or overthrowing the Chinese Government.

The Western critics label the Nobel Committee as "independent" and "just", and honor it as a moral court. However, the Committee which comprises five Norwegians only represents the value of same of the Norwegians or, to the best, the value of some of the people from the West. It is far from a representative of the values of different parts of the world. Indeed, the Nobel Peace Prize is a national award with certain international fame rather than an award showing the consensus of the international community.

In history, the Committee had awarded the Peace Prize to Andrey Dmitriyevich Sakharov, Mikhail Gorbachev and even Dalai Lama. The logic of selecting recipients of Prize of the Committee is dear: those who try hard enough to split or oppose a communist country or cater to the Western value will be favored.

This year, the Committee set itself in the center of international criticism by awarding the Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese criminal. Mr. Fredrik S. Heffennhl, a Norwegian jurist commented that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize decision is yet another example that this is no longer Noble's prize and it is the prize of the Norwegian Storting (the supreme legislature in Norway). Some people and media in Britain also pointed out that Liu Xiaobo did not make any contribution to world peace and, there is no sign that this person would make any contribution to world peace. Giving the prize to Liu Xiaobo only hurts the reputation of the prize as the decision does not comply with the will of Alfred Nobel. As made clear by media in Pakistan and Russia, the decision this year is another political step to handle a non-Western country. The Prize itself has long lost its independence.

All these show that the Nobel Committee has adopted exclusive and political approach in its value orientation. If the Committee is indeed independent and just or if its selection of the Prize recipient is convincing, Mr. Jagland and his colleagues do not even need to take pains to defend and justify their decision. Mr. Jagland asked China to give heed to different voices, probably the same should be said to Mr. Jagland himself.

(This article is provided by the Chinese Embassy in Norway.)