One World Uses Empty Chair to Draw Attention to Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Winner | Film Festival One World 2011
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One World Uses Empty Chair to Draw Attention to Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Winner

07.03.2011 | 08:22

In 2009, People in Need gave its Homo Homini award to the Chinese intellectual and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. The dissident had been sentenced to 11 years in jail the previous year for his part in the creation of Charter 08, a declaration inspired by Czechoslovakia?s Charter 77. Thanks to the activities of People in Need, former president and One World patron Václav Havel, and 40 Czech legislators, Liu Xiaobo was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, an honour he received in October last year, despite protests from the Chinese regime. When the awards ceremony was held in Oslo in December, an empty chair stood in for the imprisoned laureate. Since that time, the image of the "empty chair" has spread across social networking sites in China as a symbol of protest and support for Liu Xiaobo.

One World has decided to invite Liu Xiaobo and his wife to this year?s festival as special guests, while Liu has also been asked to sit on the Rudolf Vrba Jury, which decides on the best film in the Right to Know competition. The Right to Know is a unique competition category presenting feature-length films that draw attention to unknown or suppressed issues concerning human rights. As is traditional, the jury that decides on the best film in the Right to Know category will consist of activists and people working for international organisations that defend human rights. The invitation has been sent to the prison where Liu is serving his sentence, and other addresses.

During the One World festival viewers will come across an empty chair with the poster of Liu in screening halls. They will also have the chance to send a postcard with the campaign?s logo and the slogan "Words are Not a Crime" to the Chinese government. This will send the message to the regime that, despite their best efforts, Liu Xiaobo and other voices calling for freedom have by no means been forgotten. During the year other film festivals around the world will also take part in the Empty Chair campaign, including those organised by Human Rights Watch in London, Amnesty International in the Hague, People in Need in Brussels, and the Helsinki Committee in Warsaw.

"There will be more and more postcards with the Empty Chair motif. The offices of the Chinese president and prime minister will receive them from different countries during the year, and information about it will circulate on the Chinese internet. It will become "mission impossible" for Chinese censors to erase mentions of Liu Xiaobo from the consciousness of the public in China and internationally. It would be so much easier to realise the pointlessness of such efforts and to simply let him out," says the founder of the One World festival and the main initiator of Liu´s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, Igor Blazevic.


 

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