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US Lawmakers Nominate Hong Kong, Serbian Activists for Nobel Prize


Pro-democracy activists, from left, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, walk out of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
US Lawmakers Nominate Hong Kong, Serbian Activists for Nobel Prize
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American lawmakers have nominated three leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy movement for the Nobel Peace Prize.

A group of 12 legislators sent a letter to the Nobel nominating committee in Oslo, Norway recognizing 21-year-old Joshua Wong, 24-year-old Nathan Law and 27-year-old Alex Chow. The letter said the men should be awarded the prize “for their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong.”

The three activists led tens of thousands of people in what became known as Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” beginning in September 2014. The demonstrations – which protested a Chinese government decision to restrict fully free elections in Hong Kong - shut down parts of the city for 79 days.

A poster with a drawing of an umbrella with the Chinese characters "peace" is displayed at a rally as protesters block the main road at Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong September 30, 2014. As tensions subsided, weary protesters dozed or shelter
A poster with a drawing of an umbrella with the Chinese characters "peace" is displayed at a rally as protesters block the main road at Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong September 30, 2014. As tensions subsided, weary protesters dozed or shelter

The lawmakers’ letter also nominates the pro-democracy movement itself for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize award. The letter was signed by four Democrats and eight Republicans, including former Republican presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio.

The protests were considered illegal by Chinese and Hong Kong government officials. All three of the nominated activists spent time in jail in connection with their roles in the movement. Wong is currently out on bail awaiting an appeal on a contempt of court conviction. The charge against him relates to police attempts to clear a major highway at the end of the protests.

The pro-democracy movement had made major improvements to peace “by actively seeking to safeguard the future of Hong Kong,” the letter said. It added: the efforts come at a time when “Beijing has taken steps to undermine Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy.

Thousands of protesters raise umbrellas during a rally to support young activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow in downtown Hong Kong, Aug. 20, 2017.
Thousands of protesters raise umbrellas during a rally to support young activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow in downtown Hong Kong, Aug. 20, 2017.

“While the democracy movement in Hong Kong faces tremendous opposition from the Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government, these young leaders have continued their fight to improve the welfare of Hong Kong,” the letter said.

China criticized the lawmakers’ decision to nominate the protest leaders. In a statement Friday, the foreign ministry urged the legislators to “stop meddling” in Hong Kong and Chinese government activities. The statement also repeated China’s view that the 2014 protests were “illegal.”

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in December.

Nomination for Serbian activist

Two other U.S. lawmakers nominated a Serbian activist for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination went to Natasa Kandic, who founded a not-for-profit group that documents human rights violations that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker and New York Democratic Representative Eliot Engel wrote the nomination letter.

In this file photo, human rights activist Natasa Kandic, left, reads a newspaper with family members of slain Bosnian Muslim men and boys at the Special Court building in Belgrade, Serbia, Dec. 21, 2005.
In this file photo, human rights activist Natasa Kandic, left, reads a newspaper with family members of slain Bosnian Muslim men and boys at the Special Court building in Belgrade, Serbia, Dec. 21, 2005.

Kandic is widely credited with providing United Nations war crimes tribunal officials with important evidence on Serbia's role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslim men and boys. Her documentation of atrocities carried out by Serb military commanders in the 1990s led to prosecutions of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic.

The letter says awarding Kandic the Nobel Prize would help support continued recovery efforts from the conflicts of the Western Balkans. "This recognition would further the cause of peace and reconciliation in this and other troubled regions of our world," the lawmakers wrote.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Radio Free Asia, the Associated Press, Reuters, VOA’s Serbian Service and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

self-determination n. the right to choose government leaders

bail n. an amount of money given to a court to let a prisoner to leave jail and return later for a trial

contempt n. speech or behavior that does not show proper respect to a court or judge

undermine v. make someone weaker or less confident

cherish v. to feel or show great love for

autonomy n. the power or right of a country, group, etc., to govern itself

welfare n. the state of being happy, healthy, or successful

meddle v. to try to influence people or change things that are not your responsibility

atrocity n. very cruel or terrible actions

reconciliation n. the act of causing people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement

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