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Nobel Committee Says Peace Prize Not Against China


Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose selection for the Nobel Peace Prize infuriated Beijing
The Nobel Committee has insisted that this year's choice of peace laureate was not "against China."

"The universal rights explained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not Western values, are not Western standards," Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said at a press conference in Oslo ahead of December 10 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo.

"They are global standards, applied to every country of the world that are members of the United Nations. So we are not advocating certain Western values."

Pointing out China's fast economic development, Jagland insisted on the importance to push for parallel political reforms.

Earlier in the day, China launched a last salvo against the Nobel Committee. Speaking to reporters in Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called the award to Liu an "obscenity."

"The fairness is in everybody's heart. Many members of the international community are not supporting the wrong decision by the Norwegian committee," Jiang Yu said.

"Any means by the Norwegian committee cannot change the fact that Liu Xiaobo is a criminal. Any attempts to pressure China using this issue and to deter China from its development will not be successful."

Jiang had earlier described supporters of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Liu as "clowns" taking part in a farce.

An Empty Chair

When Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in early October, Beijing reacted with fury, and embarked on an intensive campaign to sabotage the award ceremony in Oslo.

Such efforts appear to have borne some fruit, as the prize itself -- for only the second time in its history -- in all probability won't be handed out on December 10 because neither the recipient nor a representative is likely to attend.

Instead, Liu is expected to be represented by an empty chair, a photograph, and one of his texts read by Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann.

Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion for campaigning for political freedom, and his wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest.

Other family members have reportedly been prevented from leaving China along with dozens of Chinese dissidents and intellectuals considered likely to travel to Oslo.

Chinese Pressure

In addition, 19 other countries have declined invitations to attend the ceremony, amid Chinese pressure for a boycott. They include Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Serbia, and Russia.

A number of countries have received criticism for skipping the Nobel gala.

A spokeswoman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said on December 8 that the European Union was "disappointed and concerned" about Serbia's decision not to attend.

The New York-based lobby group Human Rights Watch said it was "shocked and disappointed" that the Philippines, an advocate of democracy and human rights in Asia, would stay away from the event.

Still, Nobel Committee Chairman Jagland expressed satisfaction that two-thirds of the countries that have an embassy in Oslo will attend the ceremony -- including Ukraine, which earlier had said it would stay away.

He also voiced confidence that Liu's award will help his early release from prison.

"I think it will be difficult for Chinese authorities to keep him in prison for 11 years because, after this prize, the pressure from the outside world will be heavy, it will be quite difficult for many political leaders not to raise human rights issues in China when they meet with Chinese leaders," Jagland said.

Expressions Of Support

Jagland also said today he was surprised at the level of international support for Liu, despite pressure from Beijing.

He told Norway's TV2, "We were not expecting a lot of support at a political level since so many countries depend on China economically and politically."

One such gesture of support in particular has irked Beijing: the Foreign Ministry today criticized U.S. lawmakers after the House of Representatives called on China to release Liu and his wife.

"The U.S. Congress's so-called resolution distorts the truth and rudely meddles in China's internal affairs," spokeswoman Jiang said.

"China urges relevant U.S. lawmakers to stop issuing the wrong words on Liu Xiaobo's incident and change their arrogant and rude attitude."

Meanwhile, the AFP news agency reported that the websites of several foreign media, including CNN, the BBC, and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, appeared to be blocked in China today.

'Confucius Prize'

Meanwhile, China hoped to counter the Nobel with its own peace prize, intended to give the Chinese "viewpoint of peace."

The first Confucius Peace Prize was awarded to former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan in Beijing for his efforts to build peace between Taiwan and mainland China.

But in a harbinger of the December 10 event in Oslo, the Confucius Prize ceremony also took place in the absence of its intended recipient.

Lien's office in Taiwan said it had no information about the prize, and the award was collected by a young girl instead.

The chairman of the prize committee, Tan Changliu, told a press conference that the new prize should not be linked with the Nobel laureate.

"We believe that Mr. Lien Chan, with his knowledge, dignity, and political wisdom, would not refuse peace, and he would not refuse this prize," Tan added.

compiled from agency reports