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The Dragon Spits Fire – Again: Imprisoned Liu Xiaobo”s Nobel Peace Prize Angers the Chinese

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By Pradyut Hande:

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award that was bestowed on the imprisoned Chinese dissident — human rights activist Liu Xiaobo has garnered mixed responses from myriad quarters the world over. While many hailed the controversial choice for this year’s award, the most notable opposition (read condemnation) has expectedly come from the Chinese government itself. The award has palpably ignited the proverbial powder keg that has left Chinese officials fuming with rage; given the fact that the independent Norwegian Nobel Committee (responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize) chose to turn a deaf ear in the face of continual warnings (read threats) issued by the Chinese government “requesting” them to refrain from recognizing the unstinting efforts of Liu Xiaobo. The Chinese government’s openly bellicose stance is another indicator of the prevalent “ideology disconnect” that often mires the Middle Kingdom’s relations with its global allies.

Coming back to Liu Xiaobo: The 54-year-old has been a leading human rights/political activist, university professor and author whose unflinching pacifist approach in his earnest attempt to usher in “peaceful, gradual political change” instead of engaging in direct confrontation with the oppressive Chinese government has won him many an admirer in the international community. However, he remains an obscure marginalized peripheral figure in his own country given the fact that the Chinese Community Party has clamped down on his “inflammatory” ideas and often imprisoned him to ensure that he remains out of public consciousness.

Xiaobo initially sprang to public prominence during the macabre Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. He was duly arrested and imprisoned for two years in view of his role in the protests. Xiaobo then subsequently taught as a professor at the Beijing Normal University but alas! He wasn’t one to be cowed by the ruthlessly suppressive Chinese government and continued to propagate his “radical” ideas, much to the chagrin of the watchdog authorities. In a move that didn’t raise too many eyebrows, Xiaobo was banned from teaching anywhere in China.

In 1996, the already much-ostracized “political change proponent” incurred the wrath of the powers that be when he spoke out against China’s single-party political system. However, this time Xiaobo was dispatched to a “re-education through labor camp” for a duration of three years. Since his release, his resolve appeared to have increased manifold as he embarked on an “ideological crusade” against the prevalent Chinese systems and practices. His criticism regarding China’s attitude towards the entire Tibet crisis further propelled him into global prominence.

However, matters took a turn for the worse when he aided the framing of the contentious Charter 08 manifesto that broadly calls for political change in China. Amongst other things, the manifesto calls for a new Chinese constitution; an independent, accountable judiciary body; freedom of expression and enhanced civil rights. The Charter was backed by over 300 activists, academicians, artists, lawyers and miscellaneous professionals. Unfortunately, the manifesto turned out to be the final nail in Liu Xiaobo’s “coffin”. The authorities moved with alacrity and arrested him in a late-night raid, two days before the publication of the controversial manifesto. He was given a one-day trial (a matter of formality) in December last year and handed an 11 year sentence for “inciting state subversion”.

Xiaobo’s persistent efforts were bound to gain the global community’s attention and his bagging the Nobel Peace Prize came as a timely “recognition of the growing international consensus for improving human rights practices and culture around the world”. However, there is a gross contradiction in the opinions of the Chinese government and the Norwegian Nobel Committee (and the international think-tank at large) and the Chinese authorities.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu vehemently declared, “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. It is a complete violation of principles of the prize and aninsult to the Peace Prize itself for the Nobel Committee to award the prize to such a person”. The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee this year does restore a semblance of parity and credibility associated with the Peace Prize after they bestowed the honor on US President Barack Obama last year — a development that left many more than flummoxed. However, by throwing caution to the wind this year and awarding Xiaobo, a noted dissident, bilateral ties between China and Norway are liable to take a significant beating. The entire episode and the consequent “domestic furor” merely underscores the fact that despite its rapid socio-economic ascendancy on the global arena and purported changes in its political system, China remains a relatively “closed” state that staunchly believes and espouses its Communist ideals. The omnipresent roots of civil suppression and security related paranoia prevail. Undoubted is the widely acknowledged fact that the state-controlled Communist government has succeeded in ushering an era of protracted robust socio-economic progression, but its often belligerent rhetoric with regards to sensitive international issues that require the exercise of a certain measure of tact and diplomacy — has often rubbed its allies the wrong way.

One thing is for certain though – despite the widespread international calls to release the presently incarcerated Liu Xiaobo, China is unlikely to bow to global pressure. Xiaobo will remain a prisoner; imprisoned by a dispassionate and rigid government hell bent on drowning out the voices of Xiaobo’s ilk. I would urge you to voice yourself in the comments section below, or tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz or drop us an email at editor@youthkiawaaz.com.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and a business student with wide ranging interests and strives to address myriad issues of national and global consequence.

Image courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Liu_Xiaobo-300.jpg

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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