Posted by: Frederik Balfour on October 9, 2008
2008 has certainly been a banner year for China. It hosted the Olympic Games and topped the gold medal tally. Zhai Zhigang became a national hero in September, after becoming the first Chinese astronaut to walk in space—and making China only the third country to succeed at a spacewalk. Or, as Time Magazine’s Austin Ramsy pointed out: China got itself the bronze in space technology. But with less than 24 hours to go before the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo [a hat tip here to reader Kruger Fred who pointed out that it is not the Swedish Academy though Alfred Nobel himself was a Swede] announces this year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, you can bet this is one contest China’s leaders hope the country won’t win.
That’s because Chinese human rights activists Hu Jia and Gao Zhisheng are front runners for this year’s prize. Both are currently languishing in Chinese prison. Hu gained wide recognition in China and abroad for his advocacy on behalf of AIDS patients, and later for his outspoken criticism of China’s human rights abuses in the run-up to the Olympics. He was arrested last December, and his wife and child are under virtual house arrest in Beijing. Gao is a human rights lawyer who was arrested and convicted in 2006 for circulating articles on foreign Web sites criticizing the government’s treatment of the Falungong sect. However his sentence was suspended. He was rearrested in September 2007 after sending an open letter to the U.S. Congress.