Prague - Every year, People in Need gives the Homo Homini awards to people who have made an important contribution to promoting human rights, democracy and non-violent resolution of political conflicts.
This year the One World festival, organized by the People in Need foundation, decided to bestow the prestigious human rights prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese intellectual and dissident.
Former president Václav Havel handed over the prize last night to a group of Chinese dissidents who represented Liu Xiaobo.
He is one of the original signatories of Charter 08 (and to the other signatories), a new dissident movement and a manifesto criticising Chinese government for violating human rights and freedom of speech, policies that damage the environment.
Promoting freedom of speech in China is a dangerous business and Liu Xiaobo has been risking his safety and life over the last 30 years.
Although Liu Xiaobo has been repeatedly imprisoned over the years, and is still at the moment, he has never ceased to stand up for his unjustly prosecuted and tortured colleagues.
In terms of economy and development, China has grown enormously in the past few years but the upgrade of living standards concerns mainly people living in the cities areas. Liu Xiaobo has been advocating equal treatment of inhabitants living in urban and rural areas.
Havel writing to Chinese government
In an opinion piece run by the Wall Street Journal last December, former Czech president Václav Havel called for an immediate release from custody of Liu Xiaobo.
He also wrote that Chinese government should learn from Charter 77, a manifesto signed in 1977 by Havel and other Czechoslovak dissidents, and realize that repression and silencing of its critics are pointless.
"I am saddened by this turn of events, and my thoughts are with Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, who has yet to be given the opportunity to speak with her husband," Havel wrote.
The 11th edition of the One World festival, which opened on Wednesday, offers 123 documentary films from 42 countries, dozens of panel discussions and debates after screenings as well as accompanying programme such as exhibitions, conferences and - for the first time - the show night of Pizza Slam Poetry.
You can find out more about the program here.