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Asia-pacific

China cries foul over peace prize

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-10-08

China has reacted angrily to the nomination of jailed democracy activist Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize, describing the decision as an "obscenity" and warning Norway that ties between the two countries would suffer as a result.

AFP - China on Friday slammed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo as a violation of the honour's ideals, while the laureate's joyful wife led calls for his immediate release.

Beijing -- which has repeatedly branded the 54-year-old writer a criminal following his December 2009 jailing for 11 years on subversion charges -- also warned Norway that ties would suffer over the Nobel committee's decision.

"The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to those who work to promote ethnic harmony, international friendship, disarmament and who hold peace meetings. These were (Alfred) Nobel's wishes," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

"Liu Xiaobo was found guilty of violating Chinese law and sentenced to prison by Chinese judicial organs," Ma said in a statement on the ministry's website.

"His actions run contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. By awarding the prize to this person, the Nobel committee has violated and blasphemed the award."

Norway's ambassador to Beijing was summoned to the foreign ministry to be told of "China's disagreement and protest", the Norwegian government said.

Liu -- who was previously jailed for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests -- was arrested in late 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a bold manifesto calling for political reform in Communist-ruled China.

His conviction last year earned widespread international condemnation, and the West has repeatedly called for his release, as has his wife Liu Xia, who on Friday expressed her joy at the news of the honour bestowed upon her husband.

"I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I don't know what to say," Liu Xia told AFP by telephone.

"I want to thank everyone for supporting Liu Xiaobo. I want to thank the Nobel committee, Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama and all those people that have supported Liu Xiaobo," she said.

"I strongly ask that the Chinese government release Liu Xiaobo."

Charter 08 was modelled after "Charter 77", the 1977 document authored by Havel and other Czech democracy leaders that provided a rallying cry for their peaceful "Velvet Revolution" 12 years later.

Havel has called for Liu's release.

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader seen by Beijing as a "splittist" bent on independence for his homeland despite his repeated calls only for greater autonomy, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

The Buddhist monk added his voice to the chorus of calls for Liu's release, saying the committee's choice reflected international recognition of "the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reform".

While news of Liu's win made headlines around the world, it was not easy to find on China's main Internet portals. Searches using the key words "Nobel Peace Prize" and "Liu Xiaobo" brought up no results on the Sina, Sohu and Baidu websites.

News of the award was also blacked out on CNN broadcasts seen in China. A teaser featuring Liu's picture was seen on the 1600 GMT newscast, but the screen went black for five minutes after that, only resuming when the station had moved on to another item.

CCTV's evening news bulletin made no mention of Liu. The country's official Xinhua news agency carried news of the prize in English and Chinese -- by headlining the government's angry reaction to it.

Liu Xia told AFP that police had advised her that they would take her to the northeastern province of Liaoning, where Liu is imprisoned, so that she could tell her husband on Saturday of his Nobel win.

She said she had heard the news from friends in the media, who had arranged for her to hear the announcement live.

At Liu Xia's home in western Beijing, plainclothes security personnel removed journalists from inside the compound gates, demanded their identification documents and filmed members of the press pack at the scene.

Earlier in the day, up to six police guarded the door of the apartment, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

One of Liu's lawyers, Shang Baojun, who defended the Nobel laureate in his subversion trial, said he hoped his client would be "freed quickly".

"I hope on this occasion, China will open up even more, that restrictions on freedom of expression will be lifted," Shang told AFP.

"I hope there could be a rather significant improvement from the current situation."

His other attorney, Ding Xikui, told AFP that Liu's freedom was up to the country's judicial authorities, "who could grant him amnesty or send him abroad for medical treatment".
 

Date created : 2010-10-08

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