By Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Do you think the Chinese government will release him now?” In the piercing cold of a December night in Oslo, the same question kept coming. I had just attended the ceremony to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned human rights advocate, literary critic, and thorn in the side of the Chinese government.
Vehemently denounced by the Chinese government as “a farce”, the ceremony had movingly paid tribute to that simple truth: that words are not crimes. Freedom of expression, as Liu Xiaobo had himself told the court a year earlier, was “the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth.” The court sentenced him to 11 years behind bars.
While I was buoyed by the homage the world was paying to his courage, I also knew that the real battle was only beginning: would the international community exert enough pressure on the Chinese authorities to sway them to release Liu Xiaobo?