China calls jailed dissident's Nobel peace prize 'obscene'
The imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize yesterday.
The decision started a diplomatic row with China which denounced the award as an "obscenity" and accused the Norwegian awards committee of honouring a "criminal".
The Nobel committee said Mr Liu was honoured "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". The 54-year-old activist was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison for subversion. In a strongly-worded citation, the committee criticised Beijing's human rights record.
"Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world's second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. China's new status must entail increased responsibility," it read. "China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights."
It said political rights in China had been "distinctly curtailed", adding: "Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China."
The Chinese foreign ministry said choosing Mr Liu ran "completely counter to the principle of the prize".
"Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law," the ministry said.
Norway said China had summoned its ambassador in Beijing to express its discontent. In Oslo, the Chinese ambassador met a state secretary at Norway's foreign ministry. A ministry spokesman explained that the peace prize committee was independent of the government and that Norway wanted to maintain good relations with China.
Chinese authorities refused to allow Mr Liu to speak to the media and it was unclear if he had received the news yesterday. His wife, Liu Xia, was banned from meeting reporters but was able to make brief communication by text message and telephone.
She said. "I hope that the international community will take this opportunity to call on the Chinese government to press for my husband's release."
The former university lecturer, who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, is virtually unknown in China, where he has spent decades campaigning peacefully for political change. (© Daily Telegraph, London)