We arrived in Oslo today on the eve of the Nobel Prize ceremony. At the Grand Hotel which serves as the check-in hub for guests and participants in the Peace Prize event, there is a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation about tomorrow’s ceremony. Upon arriving at the hotel, we almost literally bumped into the actress Anne Hathaway, who is here to co- host the Prize concert on Saturday along with Denzel Washington.
In the early afternoon there was a press conference held by the Chair of the Nobel Prize Committee, with reporters from every corner of the world. Of course the questions centered on China’s efforts to dissuade, some might say bully, other countries into boycotting the Prize ceremony. What a sad commentary on the self-defeating ways in which closed and repressive societies undermine their own best interests. Sadly some 18 countries have succumbed to China’s efforts at intimidation, but it has not seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of the many Chinese attendees. They are inspired, as is the world, by the simple eloquence of Liu Xiaobo when he wrote, “Humans exist not only physically but also spiritually, possessing a moral sense, the core of which is the dignity of being human.” He also wrote, “Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth.”
This evening we participated in a reception with the human rights activists who are here as part of the official delegation representing Liu Xiaobo. It is such an honor to be among these remarkable people including many of the heroes of Tiananmen Square. Perhaps the most moving remarks of the evening came from a beautiful young woman whose own father has spent the last 8 years in prison for his activism on behalf of democracy in China. Her father, Wang Bingzhang, gave up a promising medical career to peacefully and publicly work for a free and democratic China. He has paid a heavy price for his courage and patriotism, and his family has paid a price as well. His daughter, named Ti-Anna, in honor of the 1989 demonstrations, broke down in tears as she appealed to the leaders of China to release these prisoners of conscience and“Embrace universal human values and join the mainstream of civilized nations.” (the words of Charter 08- authored by Liu Xiaobo). We were all in tears by the end of her remarks, but not tears of despair- rather tears of determination.