Liu Xiaobo remained imprisoned in northeastern China today while the Nobel Prize committee awarded him the Peace Prize in Oslo for fighting to bring human rights and democracy to China. But the suppression didn’t stop with the jailed dissident himself. His wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since he received the prize, continues to have her telephone and Internet connection shut down. Activists have been barred from meeting in public. Beijing blocked broadcasts on CNN and BBC and blocked some texts with the words Liu Xiaobo and Nobel Prize from being delivered. This is only the second time a winner or family member has not been able to accept the award. In this case, that meant the $1.4 million cash that comes with it also remained uncollected. The last time a laureate couldn’t pick up their prize was in 1936, when Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist, was imprisoned during the Nazi regime.
Congratulations, China. Your oppressive instincts just made Liu Xiaobo’s win even more historic — and won you a Nazi comparison in the process. Comparing people to Nazis is a common political tactic, it’s just that, usually, you’re not trying to invite the comparison on yourself. China’s response also managed to justify the committee’s choice. In Oslo this morning, chairman Thorbjørn Jagland told the crowd, who all had this creepy feeling this Chinese dude was staring at them, that Liu was not permitted to leave his jail cell. “Nor can his wife or closest relatives be with us … This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate.” Jagland was probably a little relieved that unlike last year, criticism was directed at an oppressive regime, and not his choice for winner.