Peace Prize to Be Awarded to Imprisoned Dissident
By SARAH LYALL and ANDREW JACOBS
Published: December 10, 2010
OSLO - Imprisoned in China and with close family members forbidden to leave the country, the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is to be represented at the prize ceremony here on Friday by an empty chair.
Enlarge This Image
Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
Before honors for Liu Xiaobo in Oslo, foreign news Web sites seemed blocked in China. Page A8.
In Beijing, the Chinese authorities, who have been incensed by the choice of Mr. Liu, continued to pour vitriol on the award while intensifying their crackdown on scores of people they perceive as a threat.
For the first time in 75 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, no representative of the winner has been allowed to make the trip to receive the coveted golden peace medal, a diploma and the $1.5 million check that comes with it.
(The last time that happened was in 1935, when Hitler prevented that year's winner, Count Carl von Ossietzky, who was imprisoned in a concentration camp, and indeed anyone from Germany from attending the ceremony). So, with no one here to receive the prize, it will for the time being not be presented at all.
But the Nobel ceremony, an elaborate pageant at Oslo's city hall, is to go on just the same.
In normal years, representatives from all 63 diplomatic missions accredited in Oslo generally attend. But this year, China is boycotting. A total of 15 countries, including Russia, have said that they would not attend, the peace prize committee said on its Web site, although not all have characterized their absence as a direct result of the intense pressure and threats of reprisal from China before the ceremony.
Instead of a statement from Mr. Liu, a piece of his writing will be read aloud by the Norwegian actress and movie director Liv Ullmann.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has said repeatedly that it did not intend to snub or attack China in presenting the award to Mr. Liu, who has been a prominent thorn in the government's side for years but is better known outside the country than inside. Instead, the committee said, the point is to remind China that with power comes responsibility, and that economic growth should be coupled with political reform.
"The fate of China will be the fate of the world," the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said on Thursday. "If China is able to develop a social market economy with full civil rights, it will have a positive impact on the world as a whole."
Norway itself has been punished by China, which recently called the five members of the Nobel committee "clowns." Among other things, China has indefinitely suspended bilateral trade talks between the two countries. The two countries have not spoken officially since Mr. Liu was announced as the winner of the prize in October.
Mr. Liu was jailed in December 2009 for after co-authoring Charter ‘08 - a call for reform and rights in China.
In Beijing on Thursday, Zhang Zuhua, a former official who helped write Charter ‘08, was forced into a vehicle by police officers, according to rights advocates, and dozens of other people were either confined to their homes or escorted out of the capital. At least one of them, the rights lawyer Teng Biao, was told by police he could return home on Sunday.
Blue construction panels went up in front of Mr. Liu's apartment building in an apparent attempt to block the sightlines of foreign cameramen who gathered there throughout the day. Mr. Liu's wife has been incommunicado inside her apartment since shortly after the award was announced two months ago and other members of Mr. Liu's family have been under tight surveillance.
Her mother and one of his brothers were reluctant to speak to a reporter on Friday; in a text message, the brother, Liu Xiaoxuan, apologized, saying his phone was being monitored.
Calls to many of the 140 people in China whom Ms. Liu had invited to the ceremony yielded recordings saying their phones had been turned off. One of the few to pick up, Yu Fangqiang, the managing partner of an AIDS organization, said he could not talk because a minder was sitting at his side.
Wang Songlian, a researcher at Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said the tightened surveillance imposed on more than 300 people throughout the country rivaled the restrictions imposed during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party's ascension to power which was celebrated last year.
Although the authorities have effectively silenced many of the country's most prominent critics, Ms. Wang said such efforts were self-defeating. "China has tried so hard to show it can rise peacefully but making people disappear doesn't present a very good image to the outside world," she said. "It just shows how fearful the government is of dissent."
On Friday, Global Times, a nationalistic, populist tabloid affiliated with the party-owned People's Daily, branded the ceremony a "political farce" and described Oslo as a "cult center." Even as the state media railed against the award, censors meticulously scrubbed the Internet of any news stories or public comments that could be construed as sympathetic to Mr. Liu or the Nobel Prize. Broadcasts by news outlets such as CNN and the BBC were blacked out and their Web sites were inaccessible to those unwilling or unable to surmount the so-called Great Firewall.
Sarah Lyall reported from Oslo, and Andrew Jacobs from Beijing. Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris. Jonathan Ansfield, Zhang Jing and Ashley Li contributed research from Beijing.