Nobel Peace Prize Winners Meet And Urge Nuclear Weapon Ban
HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — The Dalai Lama and other Nobel Peace Prize laureates from the last four decades gathered Friday at a hotel a few miles from ground zero of the world’s first atomic bomb attack to urge the end of nuclear weapons.
The award winners also focused on the plight of those who couldn’t attend the annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates — including this year’s winner, jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, and Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s detained pro-democracy activist who won in 1991.
Liu Xiaobao “failed to come here. It is very sad,” the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who won in 1989, told The Associated Press.
Wu’er Kaixi, a prominent student leader from the 1989 pro-democracy protests in China’s Tiananmen Square, addressed the meeting in Liu’s stead.
“I look forward to the day when my country is a land with freedom of expression,” Wu’er said, reading from Liu’s last speech before he was jailed.
Suu Kyi, under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years, is expected to be released Saturday in Burma when her latest detention period expires.
The annual meeting brings past award recipients together to call attention to their achievements and work, as well as to push the prize’s overall message of human rights and nonviolence.
At the opening ceremony Friday morning, laureates were given necklaces made of paper cranes — a symbol of peace in Japan — by local schoolchildren. They also heard the story of a “hibakusha” or survivor of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic attack, who described his journey home through the carnage that day.
“I hate atomic bombs, but I know we cannot erase hatred by hating others. Hatred has to be overcome,” said Akihiro Takahashi, who was a boy in Hiroshima when the Americans dropped the bomb.
Japan is hosting the event as it prepares to welcome world leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, on Saturday for the separate Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama. Beijing has often been critical of countries that formally welcome the Dalai Lama and Chinese dissidents.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Relations between Beijing and Tokyo are already tense after a collision last month between Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese fishing ship near islands claimed by both sides.
The three-day meeting is being held outside of Europe for the first time to draw attention to the devastating power of nuclear weapons. At a park in the middle of Hiroshima, an eternal flame burns in remembrance of the 140,000 victims, and the blasted-out hulk of a building near the detonation site is preserved in memorial.
“Hiroshima makes you aware of the reality of the destruction by nuclear weapons,” Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki said.
The atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II remain controversial. Many in America believe they saved countless lives by forcing Japan to surrender, while others say they were an unjustified use of force on civilians.
“These atomic bombs were used on the Japanese people to terrorize the rest of the world,” said Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who won a peace prize in 1976 for her work to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
There are about 23,000 nuclear warheads in the world today. Two award winners from the countries with the biggest arsenals did not attend.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and a recipient in 1990 for his part in ending the Cold War, had to pull out at the last minute due to health reasons.
President Obama, who will be in Japan for the economic summit, declined to attend, although he praised the meeting’s efforts. Obama received an award last year, in part for his efforts on nuclear disarmament.
There were six laureates in attendance. The others are former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk, Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei, 2005 winner for his efforts to divert nuclear resources from being used in weapons, Jody Williams, who won in 1997 for her work to ban land mines, and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi.
Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio, this year’s winner of a special award from the laureates, arrived late Friday afternoon. The FIFA player of the year in 1993 was chosen for his efforts for charities, including pressing for the freedom of Suu Kyi.