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Asia-Pacific

China furious while world salutes Nobel winner Liu

media Liu's wife Liu Xia holds up a picture of him Reuters

The Chinese government says the Norwegian Nobel committee has violated the Nobel Peace Prize by awarding it to dissident Liu Xiabao, and warns that ties between the two countries could suffer.  But many governments and NGOs around the world have welcomed the award.

China dubbed the award "blasphemy" and has blocked reporting of the news on its territory.

Liu was jailed for 11 years in December 2009 after cowriting Charter 08, a petition which called for political reform in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Beijing Correspondent An Meydam says the timing is painful for China, as it is trying to project an image of modernity and progress to the world.
 
“It is a self-assured China which suddenly gets a slap in the face and that is a little bit of a problem,” he says. “It’s a face thing.”

Tienchi Liao, ICPC, Hong Kong 08/10/2010 - by Judith Prescott Listen

 
But there were many positive reactions:
 

  • Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989, welcomed the decision and called for Liu’s immediate release, as did Taiwan's main opposition party.
  • "This decision embodies the defence of human rights everywhere in the world," said France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. "France, like the European Union, expressed its concern after his arrest and has called for him to be released on a number of occasions. She repeats that call," he added.
  • The Norwegian and German governments, the United Nations and the European Union also welcomed the award and called for Liu’s release.

Human rights groups called for Chinese authorities to release all its prisoners of conscience.

  • Reporters Without Borders issued a statement saying it was “deeply moved” by the award. “This decision is a gesture of historic significance for China’s free speech movement,” it added.
  • Amnesty International said Liu was a "worthy winner" and hoped the award would "keep the spotlight on the struggle for fundamental freedoms and concrete protection of human rights that Liu Xiaobo and many other activists in China are dedicated to".

 
But a senior figure in China's democracy movement said that others deserved the Nobel Peace Prize more than Liu. Wei Jingsheng, who spent nearly 20 years in prison for his calls for democracy in China, said Liu had often been allowed to operate freely and had criticised proponents for more sweeping changes.

"In my observation, the Nobel Peace Prize is going to Liu because he is different from the majority of people in opposition. He made more gestures of cooperation with the government and made more criticism of other resisters who suffered," Wei told wire service AFP, adding that Liu’s willingness to work with the Chinese authorities might have caused Beijing to tone down its pressure on Norway.

"That might be the main reason that the Norwegians were finally able to withstand the pressure," Wei said.

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