Banquet speech

Kaci Kullmann Five

Speech at the Nobel banquet, December 10, 2010

Your Majesties, Excellencies, dear guests,

Dear Liu Xiaobo,

Even though you cannot hear me, I address this speech to you, hoping that one day I will be able to meet you and give you a copy of my speech.

As we are sitting around these decorated tables in Oslo to dine and wine in celebration of you, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2010, you are locked up in your prison cell in north-eastern China, deprived of your freedom not only to speak and write, but also to move around and to be with those you love. Your dear wife is blocked from all contact with the outside world under house arrest in Beijing. The contrast to this evening's celebration could not have been sharper. But we know that you are aware of the events taking place today in Oslo, and that you know the city from your visit here in the late 1980's.

As a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, I'm not allowed to disclose the content of the discussions we have before making our decision. I think I can make one small exception. Once we had decided that you, Liu Xiaobo, deserved the prize we were left with one very important question for our own consciences: Was it fair to you and your family to bestow this added burden upon you? Would you feel that we made your situation worse, if that is possible, by giving you this Prize?

Your wife's first comment to CNN was that she was overwhelmed and happy. "To receive this Prize is a great honour, but it also implies great responsibilities," she said. When she met you two days later in your prison you wept with joy and said "I never thought they would dare to give the Prize to a criminal in prison." Reading these comments I felt a profound relief and great joy as this made it clear to me that you are definitely not an unwilling Laureate.

In November 1988 you were in Oslo, a 33 year old known to be unorthodox and unafraid. You wrote a letter here in Oslo to an Australian friend and author then living in Beijing, Geremie Barmé. There you state the following about yourself: "Maybe my personality makes me run into brick walls wherever I go. I can accept this even if I crack my head. At least I will have caused it myself and I will not be able to blame others".

The 22 years that followed have been a continuous fight for what you believe in and for your right to say what you think. You underline that "There is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom". And you know that freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth.

You say you demand of yourself to "Lead a life of honesty, responsibility and dignity". There is no doubt that you are living by these values. Even though you have been robbed of almost everything dear to you - your wife, your job as a teacher and your right to write and take part in discussions - you were still able to state in Court last year, "I have no enemies and no hatred."

Your so-called crime is to disagree with the ruling party of China. You call it a crime of speech. You are found guilty of "inciting subversion of state power". You are seen doing this for instance when you write that "The official patriotism advocated by the CPC dictatorship is an institutionalized fallacy of "substituting the party for the nation".

Am I wrong in thinking that your efforts to change China and to fight for universal human rights for 1.3 billion people are not in vain? No! History is on your side. Let me tell you a little story. On the 25 th of October 1975 two Norwegian students active in the youth movement of the Conservative Party of Norway managed to get through to Andrei Sakharov's apartment in Moscow . Some days earlier in Oslo it had been announced that he was the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 1975 and the Soviet dictatorship denied him the right to leave the country to receive his Prize. He was under house arrest and was hardly allowed to see anybody.

I was one of the two students coming to give him our support. As it was rather late in the evening on a Saturday the police were not guarding his house. My friend had memorized an opening remark in Russian and Sakharov let us in. He served us tea, honey and black bread in his kitchen. Even though he was a frail man, I will never forget the strength I felt in this individual who dared to stand up against the rulers of the country. I feel certain I would have had the same feeling if we had been allowed to meet with you.

Therefore, I think it is worthwhile listening to what Confucius once said: "Carry a basket of gravel every day to the same place and you will build a mountain". Sakharov carried his baskets, so do you. I'm convinced that your inspiration, your courage and your persistence will make more and more people help you build that mountain.

We hope that once in the future you will be able to come to Oslo and give your Nobel acceptance speech. I'm sure you will then also bring your wife with you. From people who know you both I hear that she is always standing firmly behind you and that without her support and love you would probably not have been able to endure the treatment your country gives you.

In an interview with The Observer your wife says she had feared another arrest of you ever since you were released in 1999. When she observed your work on the Charter 08 document she knew what was coming, but she said nothing. "Later on I have thought that a person only has one chance in life. This is what he has chosen, so let it be his choice," she states.

I salute you, Liu Xiaobo, for your courage and your will and ask all our guests to raise their glasses to honour you and to unite in a common wish that the Peace Prize can protect both you and your wife and sustain your important work. To the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2010 Liu Xiaobo! Skål.



 Nobel Peace Prize

 Liu Xiaobo

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