China anger at Liu Nobel ‘farce’

The award placed on the empty chair

Nobel chairman Thorbjorn Jagland presents the prize Courtesy:

China has said the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is a “political farce”.

China’s foreign ministry said the move by the prize committee in Oslo “does not represent the wish of the majority of the people in the world”.

There were standing ovations at the ceremony in Norway for Mr Liu, who was represented only by an empty chair.

The committee’s chairman called for the immediate release of the dissident.

Thorbjorn Jagland praised China for lifting millions of people out of poverty, calling it an “extraordinary achievement”.

But he warned China that its new status as a leading world power meant Beijing “must regard criticism as positive”.

In response, the foreign ministry in Beijing said in a statement: “We resolutely oppose any country or any person using the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere with China’s internal affairs or infringe upon China’s legal sovereignty.”

China says that Mr Liu is a criminal, and insists that giving him a prize is an insult to China’s judicial system.

Beijing has also waged a campaign in recent weeks to discredit the Nobel prize.

During the award ceremony in Oslo, Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann read out a statement that Mr Liu had made in court during his trial in December 2009.

Why China considers Liu Xiaobo a threat1989: leading activist in Tiananmen Square protests for democratisation; jailed for two years1996: spoke out against China’s one-party system; sent to labour camp for three years2008: co-author of Charter 08, calling for a new constitution, an independent judiciary and freedom of expression2009: jailed for subversion for 11 years; verdict says he “had the goal of subverting our country’s people’s democratic dictatorship and socialist system. The effects were malign and he is a major criminal”.Excerpts: Liu Xiaobo’s final statement Charter 08: A call for change In pictures: Nobel Peace Prize award Liu Xiaobo: the right choice?

“I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future, free China,” said the statement.

“For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme.”

Honouring the new laureate, Mr Jagland placed the Nobel diploma on the empty chair marking Mr Liu’s absence.

He compared China’s anger at the award to the outcry over peace prizes awarded to other dissidents of their times, including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said Mr Liu was dedicating his prize to “the lost souls from 4 June”, those who died in the pro-democracy protests on that date in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

“We can say (Mr) Liu reminds us of Nelson Mandela,” he said. The former South African president received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

The UN says it had information that China detained at least 20 activists ahead of the ceremony.

At the scene

An image of Liu Xiaobo is being thrown on to the facade of the Grand Hotel in the centre of Oslo as night falls, after the city honoured this year’s Nobel peace laureate.

For the first time in more than 70 years the peace prize ceremony has been essentially symbolic, with the recipient in jail and none of the close family members who would be entitled to receive the prize on his behalf allowed to leave China.

The most symbolic moment of all was when the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, placed Liu Xiaobo’s medal on a chair on the podium that had been deliberately left empty.

It has been one of the most controversial peace prizes for years. To China, the award has diminished this prestigious prize. But to the Nobel committee, China’s diplomatic offensive over the award only justifies the choice of Liu Xiaobo as a deserving winner.

A further 120 cases of house arrest, travel restriction, forced relocation and other acts of intimidation have been reported.

The BBC’s English and Chinese language websites have been blocked, and BBC TV coverage was blacked out inside China during the ceremony.

Mr Liu, one of China’s leading dissidents, is serving an 11-year sentence in a jail in north-east China for state subversion.

Police are stationed outside his home in Beijing where his wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest.

Geir Lundestad, the director of the Nobel committee, said 48 foreign delegations attended the Oslo ceremony, 16 countries – including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – turned down the invitation and the Chinese returned their invitation unopened.

Analysts say many of those who stayed away did so as a result of Chinese pressure.

However, Serbia – which had previously said it would not attend – announced on Friday that it would be sending a representative.

Beijing had sought to prevent anyone travelling from China to Oslo to collect the prize on Mr Liu’s behalf.

Countries that boycotted the ceremonyChina, Vietnam, KazakhstanRussiaVenezuela, CubaTunisia, Morocco, Sudan, AlgeriaSaudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, EgyptPakistan, Afghanistan, Sri LankaWho stayed away? Foreign websites blocked by China China’s voices of dissent Media reaction to Nobel row

The BBC’s Mike Wooldridge in Oslo says that to the Nobel committee, Liu Xiaobo symbolises a message it was keen to send to China – that its growing economic strength and power do not exempt it from universal standards of human rights.

On the other hand, China said the committee had chosen a criminal convicted under Chinese law to serve the interests of certain Western countries, our correspondent says.

Liu Xiaobo first came to prominence when he took part in the Tiananmen protests.

He was sent to prison for nearly two years for his role, and has been a critic of the Chinese government ever since.

He was given the 11-year prison sentence in December 2009 for inciting the subversion of state power, a charge which came after he co-authored a document known as Charter 08.

The document calls openly for political reforms in China, such as a separation of powers and legislative democracy.

This year marks the first time since 1936 that the Nobel Peace Prize, now worth $1.5m (£950,000), was not handed out.

Prison holding Liu Xiaobo

The BBC’s Damian Grammaticas reports from the prison holding Liu Xiaobo

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday again called for Mr Liu to be released “as soon as possible”.

Last year’s peace prize winner, US President Barack Obama, has also called for his release.

As well as putting Liu Xia, the Nobel laureate’s wife, under house arrest, the authorities have put pressure on other activists and dissidents.

Some have been prevented from leaving the country, while others have been forced to leave their homes for the next few days, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

One of those to disappear, it said, was Zhang Zuhua, the man who co-wrote Charter 08.

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