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10/08/2010 Chinese Dissident Wins Nobel Peace Prize Freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion.

An independent court system.

And a democratic government.

As Americans, we tend of take all of those things for granted. They’re guaranteed to us by the Constitution.

But in China, there are no such guarantees.

And people who ask for such things run the risk of being put in prison.

That’s what happened to Liu Xiaobo. (NOTE: Liu Xiaobo is pronounced LEE-ooh SHAo-boh.)

For the past 20 years, Liu has been in and out of Chinese prisons.

The reasons: his outspoken support for human rights and his calls for peaceful political change in China.

Those are also the reasons that Liu was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Nobel committee praised Liu “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

The Nobel Peace Prize comes with a gold medal and $1.5 million dollars in prize money.

Under normal circumstances, Liu would travel to Oslo, Norway, later this year, to pick up his prize in person.

But it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to do that.

That’s because he’s serving an 11-year prison sentence right now for pushing for peaceful democratic reforms in China.

To the Chinese government, calls for democratic reforms are a threat—even peaceful ones.

Specifically, they’re a threat to China’s Communist Party—the one party that has controlled China tightly for more than half a century.

That’s why China’s leaders consider Liu a criminal.

And that’s why they’re denouncing the Nobel committee for awarding him the Peace Prize.

“The Nobel Committee giving the Peace Prize to such a person runs completely contrary to the aims of the prize,” a Chinese government spokesman told reporters on Friday.

News about Liu winning the prize has been blacked out in China.

But Liu’s wife still found out about it.

Police reportedly kept her from talking directly with reporters.

But in a written statement to the Associated Press, she called it “a true honor for him—and one for which I know he would say he is not worthy.”

The Nobel Committee disagrees.

“Lu Xiaobo is exactly the kind of a committed citizen who deserves such an award,” said former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel, according to the Associated Press. “And that is the reason why I, together with my friends, nominated him.”

Because of the Chinese media blackout, Liu himself probably doesn’t know he won the Peace Prize.

So as of Friday morning, he had not issued a statement himself.

But late last year, he made this statement to the Chinese court that sent him to prison:

“I firmly believe that China’s political progress will never stop. And I’m full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom,” he said, according to the Times.

On Friday, a small group of Liu’s friends reportedly gathered at a park in China’s capital city, Beijing.

According to the Associated Press, they shouted, “Long live freedom of speech! Long live democracy!”

They were soon taken away by the police.

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