When the celebrated American violinist Lynn Chang was invited to perform at today’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, he asked for 24 hours to think about it.
The 2010 peace laureate, Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for “subverting state power,” and neither he nor his wife was allowed to travel to Oslo to accept the prize. A regime that will lock a man up because he advocates peaceful democratic reform and freedom of expression is likely to have few scruples about lashing out at anyone who honors that man. So while Chang, whose father immigrated to America in 1949, was “thrilled and honored” to be invited to the Nobel ceremony, he was also aware that there might be repercussions: The Chinese government could bar him from visiting relatives still living in China, for example. Or it could forbid Chinese music students from studying at the schools with which Chang is affiliated, which include Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and the Boston and New England conservatories.
But when Chang consulted with family members and school officials, he says, the near-unanimous consensus was: “Absolutely, you should do this.’’ And so, to his credit and to theirs, Chang is performing in Oslo. He will be doing more than paying tribute to the absent Liu. He will also be conveying the esteem of some of Boston’s renowned institutions of learning, which had to choose between standing with Liu or with his jailers, and made the right choice.