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China reacts angrily to award of Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiabo

Saturday, October 9th 2010 - 02:04 UTC
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The controversial 54-year-old poet, literary critic and pro-democracy campaigner The controversial 54-year-old poet, literary critic and pro-democracy campaigner

China has reacted angrily to news that one of its dissidents has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize, labelling it obscene and saying the prize has gone to a criminal. Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland announced the illustrious award in Oslo.

“The Norwegian Novel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 to Liu Xiabo for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” he said.

In 1989, pro-democracy agitator Mr Liu joined a hunger strike in support of students in Tiananmen Square. He persuaded many to leave the square as troops were poised to enter.

He was jailed for 20 months and is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence for drafting Charter 08, which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

Before his arrest the controversial 54-year-old poet, literary critic and pro-democracy campaigner told the BBC the Tiananmen killings inspired his activism.

“Having doing those things in the Tiananmen protests I've been put into prison, released and then put into prison again,” he said.

“I don't have grand dreams for myself; dreams like saving the nation. I have a very simple wish; to be an honest and dignified writer.”

But the Chinese government certainly does not like what it is hearing.

“Liu Xiabo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. Awarding the prize to Liu runs contrary to the principals of the Nobel Peace Prize,” foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

“The fact that Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to such a person also lowers the peace prize itself”.

The government's outburst was no surprise; it had told the Nobel Committee beforehand that Mr Liu was not a suitable candidate.

But Norway's foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store is making no apologies for the decision of the independent Nobel Committee.

“We congratulate the award winner. The committee emphasises the link between the development, democracy and human rights and that has been one of the additions of the Nobel Committee over the years,” he said.

“And Norway's position is that the people of China have gone through immense progress - economically, socially also politically.

”But China, being an integrated part of the world community also has to be ready to engage debates over civil and political rights, and this is one such contribution.“

Mr Store says there is no reason why bilateral relations between China and Norway should be damaged.

”Norway should stand by the integrity of the Novel Peace Prize Committee. It's a proud prize, a proud committee; it has done its work for 110 years and we should stand up for that right,“ he said.

”This is part of an interdependent world that there are independent voices and Norway has to accept those decisions and China should accept those decisions.”

Among those calling for Mr Liu's release are US president Barack Obama and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Categories: Politics, International.

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