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Professor: Nobel Will Give Chinese Activists Courage

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

I'm joined now by Professor Perry Link of the University of California Riverside, who is both a scholar of Chinese language and literature, and also someone very familiar with Chinese pro-democracy activists, among them, Liu Xiaobo. Welcome to the program.

PERRY LINK: My pleasure, especially on a day like this.

SIEGEL: Obviously your reaction to the selection is very positive. Why? What's so important to you?

LINK: The party for the last two decades especially has tried to stimulate Chinese nationalism and induce the attitude that nationalism is us. And this kind of a prize will let people eventually, in the long term, start to see that, no, there's a different kind of China. There's a better China. There's a new China, the kind that Liu Xiaobo in his Charter 08 has very carefully spelled out.

SIEGEL: The Nobel citation calls Liu the foremost symbol of struggle for human rights in China. Is that word foremost pretty accurate or did they choose among several who might equally well have received this prize?

LINK: It's much more accurate after they've made this decision than before. It's important to point out that Liu Xiaobo himself was part of a group. And the document Charter 08 was really a group product. So from that point of view, the choice of Liu Xiaobo is a bit arbitrary. It's the correct one, by the way. I think because he was fingered by the government and put in prison for 11 years.

SIEGEL: What should we make of the letter signed by 14 Chinese activists who live outside China - some of whom, though, had been imprisoned in China before - who denounced this prize, especially because of Liu's statement during his subversion trial titled, I Have No Enemies. What is the issue here?

LINK: All of these people are my friends. I more or less hate to say this, but for the benefit of your huge audience I would say that it's natural among this group of people to feel rivalries. And I view it mostly as a wish that one of the rest of us could have received this prize.

SIEGEL: But you're alluding to jealousy there. I mean, are there actual substantive differences in what people think ought to be done in China today by the dissident community?

LINK: In the larger picture, no, I don't think. This is an ironic thing about these - I prefer the word rivalries to jealousies - but I think the people who signed that letter would buy into the vision that Charter 08 puts out there.

SIEGEL: But they seem to fault him for being too conciliatory was the accusations.

LINK: There was a statement that he made shortly after he was detained and sent to prison that said he has no enemies, that he feels his treatment in the prison has been reasonable and good and so on. And this raised a lot of eyebrows, including mine, I might say. But I don't think that that represents a fundamental policy difference that he would have with the others.

SIEGEL: Professor Link, thank you very much for talking with us.

LINK: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That Professor Perry Link of University of California Riverside talking with us about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded today to the Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.