The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually in Oslo. Sometimes it went to the right person and sometimes it went to the wrong person—depending on whose perspective. When the Dalai Lama received the prize in 1989, the Chinese government was furious. The same happened to the Burmese government when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the award in 1991.

On October 8, 2010 Liu Xiaobo became the first Chinese to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Oslo committee had already received a warning from Beijing not to give Liu the prize because he was a “criminal” who is serving eleven years in prison for “subversion of state power.” After Oslo made its announcement, Beijing labeled the award an “obscenity.” By Beijing’s standards it certainly is. Charter 08, a document that Liu helped write—and that was published in English for the first time in the January 15, 2009, issue of The New York Review of books—was soon signed by ten thousand Chinese. It demanded that We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to the crime of incitement to subvert state power” must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.