China cancels Norweigan fisheries meeting in response to Liu Xiaobo Nobel Prize
China has taken its first official retaliation following the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the dissident Liu Xiaobo, cancelling a meeting with a Norwegian government fisheries minister in Shanghai.
The move came three days after Mr Liu was awarded the prize, a decision denounced by Beijing as an “obscenity” but welcomed around the world by critics of China’s human rights record.
China had warned in advance that the award could damage relations between Beijing and Oslo which are in the middle of negotiating a free-trade deal that is considered a possible template for future deals between the EU and China.
Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Norway’s fisheries minister, had already travelled to China commercial capital for the meeting which included a reception at which she was due to hand over the 10 millionth salmon exported from Norway to China since 1988.
The snub was delivered despite the fact that the Nobel Institute which awarded the prize is not an arm of the Norwegian government.
“The Nobel committee is independent of the government and the parliament,” the minister said before leaving for China.
“There is therefore no basis for measures against Norway if someone doesn’t like the prize-winner.”
Chinese state media has denounced the award as a reflection of the West’s “extraordinary terror” at China’s inexorable rise.
State-controlled newspapers, having ignored the award last Friday on the orders of censors, went on the offensive on Monday saying the award simply exposed the depths of Western fears and prejudices against China’s new-found power.
“The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to ’dissident’ Liu Xiaobo was nothing more than another expression of this prejudice, and behind it lies an extraordinary terror of China’s rise and the Chinese model,” said the *Global Times*, a popular Chinese-language tabloid.
Mr Liu, a 54-year-old former literature professor, was jailed for 11 years last Christmas on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” after circulating the Charter 08 petition calling for greater freedom in China.
Beijing has furiously denounced the decision to honour Liu, describing him as a “criminal” whose calls for Western-style political reforms risk destroying the social and economic progress seen in China during the last 30 years of “opening up”.
The US and several European governments have called on China to release Liu following the award and allow Chinese citizens to enjoy the freedoms that are theoretically guaranteed under China’s constitution but often overridden in the interest of “maintaining harmony”.
Mr Liu, who played an active but peaceful role during the 1989 pro-democracy protests, dedicated the award to Tiananmen Square victims to honour their “non-violent spirit in giving their lives for peace, freedom, and democracy”, Human Rights in China, a US-based group, quoted Liu as saying.
His wife, Lui Xia, who visited her husband in jail over the weekend, was reportedly back under house arrest in Beijing on Monday after issuing a message on her Twitter microblog account. Calls to her mobile phone were met with a message saying it was “out of service”.
“Brothers, I have returned home. On the eighth (of October) they placed me under house arrest. I don’t know when I will be able to see anyone,” Liu Xia said in a Twitter posting on Sunday night.
“My mobile phone has been broken and I cannot call or receive calls. I saw Xiaobo and told him on the ninth at the prison that he won the prize. I will let you know more later. Everyone, please help me (re) tweet. Thanks,” she said.
Although the news of Mr Liu’s award has reverberated in blogging circles in China, despite the best efforts of the internet censors to erase all mention of Liu and the Nobel Prize, there has been no public reaction in mainland China.
In Hong Kong, however, a democracy activist was arrested on assault charges after a small group of 20 supporters gathered to eat Norwegian Salmon and drink champagne outside the Chinese government liaison office.
The 22-year-old activist was charged with the assault after splashing a security guard with champagne but later released on bail.