Human rights activists in Prague support Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo

Photo: CTK

The eyes of the world were on Oslo today, where for the first time in more than 70 years the winner of this year’s Nobel peace prize was noticeably absent. Despite international efforts to get him released, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo remains in jail in north-east China, his wife is under house arrest and the Chinese government has used all the clout it has to prevent as many countries as possible attending Friday’s award ceremony. Around the world, on Human Rights Day, people expressed support for the jailed Nobel peace prize winner who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion after signing the Charter 08 manifesto calling for political reform in China.

The Nobel peace prize ceremony in Oslo, photo: CTK
The Czech branch of Amnesty International organized a protest event here in Prague. Kateřina Šaldová of Amnesty spoke to me shortly before setting off for the Chinese Embassy.

“Amnesty International Czech Republic has organized a small event to highlight today’s Nobel prize ceremony. We would like to offer our congratulations to Chinese officials and highlight the struggle of Liu Xiaobo in China. We will gather outside the Chinese embassy with flowers and congratulation cards. We would like to hand these cards over to the ambassador, but of course we don’t know if we will succeed.

Apart from that we have also organized a traditional letter writing marathon – in which people can write cards and letters to prisoners of conscience as well as appeals to governments asking them to free all political prisoners. For example we would like to support Liu Xiaobo in this way, we want to support Norma Cruz who is a female activist seeking justice in cases of violence against women in Guatemala and there are two other cases we would particularly like to highlight.”

Photo: CTK
Could you name them?

“Yes, one of them is Mao Hengfeng, she is a Chinese activist who was detained earlier this year. She has engaged in activities supporting the Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and the other is a Mexican priest -Father Solalinde -who is helping migrants in Mexico to have a better life.”

How many people tend to come to such a letter-writing-marathon? How many are interested enough, care enough to go there and write a letter?

“Well, last year was a great success –meaning for Amnesty International Worldwide – we managed to send over 700,000 letters from human rights supporters all around the world. In the Czech Republic it depends on the topic, but we have hundreds of people supporting us on occasion.”

The former president Václav Havel is one of the people in this country who always speaks out about the need to stand up against human rights violations, to support dissidents elsewhere. Do you feel there should be more people speaking out in this manner, people who enjoy respect?

Václav Havel
“You are definitely right about that. Because we see that support from people who have experienced injustice first hand –like the former president Václav Havel who was a prisoner of conscience- really helps. We would like to thank them all for supporting Amnesty International and of course we would be glad if more people join us and show their faces and speak out - to bring home the fact that human rights are really part of our everyday lives.”