China warns Nobel: Giving peace prize to a Chinese dissident will hurt ties with Norway

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

China warns Nobel official: Don’t honor dissident

BEIJING — China has warned the Nobel committee against awarding its coveted peace prize to a jailed Chinese dissident, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute said Tuesday

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman denied that China has exerted pressure but said that choosing dissident Liu Xiaobo would go against the prize’s aims.

“The person you just mentioned was sentenced to jail by Chinese judicial authorities for violating Chinese law. I think his acts are completely contrary to the aspirations of the Nobel Peace Prize,” said spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

Liu, one of the country’s most prominent activists, was the main author of a daring political manifesto that called for stronger human rights and an end to Communist party dominance. He was detained in 2008, and then found guilty of inciting to subvert state power. He was sentenced last December to 11 years in jail.

Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying warned that awarding the prize to Liu could harm ties between the two countries when she visited Norway in June.

Fu said that giving the Nobel to Liu would be “an unfriendly action that would have negative consequences for the relationship between Norway and China,” Lundestad told The Associated Press.

Lundestad said the Nobel committee is independent and ignores pressure to influence its decisions. The peace prize winner will be announced on Oct. 8.

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, said Tuesday she thinks China will be able to exert enough pressure to stop her husband from getting the award.

“The Chinese government has money and power. There is nothing they cannot buy,” she told AP Television News.

In past years, when other Chinese human rights activists have been mentioned as prize contenders, China also tried to quash their nominations.

Fu, speaking at a news conference in Beijing about a trip by Premier Wen Jiabao to Europe next week, said there is false talk about Chinese pressure every year.

“Every year, you report that China will apply pressure. And it’s standard practice around this time of year. You often talk about the Chinese pressure issue,” she said.

Lundestad said he told Fu that the committee is independent of the Norwegian government. He said giving the peace prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989 shows the Nobel committee doesn’t respond to pressure from China. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to undermine its control of Tibet and is sharply critical of anyone who supports him.

China has pointedly disavowed his award as well as the Nobel Literature Prize in 2000, won by Gao Xinjian, a dissident emigre writer who lives in France.

“I’ve had many such meetings, but this is probably at the highest level,” Lundestad said. “They consider this an unfriendly action which would have negative consequences for the relationship between Norway and China.

“We, of course, reject any effort to interfere in the deliberations of the Norwegian Nobel Committee,” he said.

Before his latest sentence, Liu, a former university professor, also spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, which ended when the government called in the military — killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of demonstrators.

China routinely uses vaguely worded subversion charges to jail people it considers troublemakers. Liu’s 11-year prison sentence is the harshest penalty given for inciting subversion since the crime was introduced in 1997.

In recent weeks, there have been increased public calls in support of Liu’s nomination. More than 120 Chinese scholars and intellectuals have signed an open letter supporting his bid.

Last week, Czech democracy leader Vaclav Havel added his voice to the growing support for Liu, writing a public endorsement published in the International Herald Tribune.

Liu modeled the political document he wrote in 2008 after Havel’s Charter 77, a political declaration that helped pave the way for the 1989 Velvet Revolution that swept the Communist regime out of the former Czechoslovakia.


Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.

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