Saturday 24 February 2018

Russia joins China in boycotting Nobel peace prize

Barney Henderson

Russia has joined China in boycotting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to honour jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo next month.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that it may not now hold the ceremony for awarding the peace prize in response to the fact that China has pressured countries not to attend and prevented Mr Liu, 54, or any members of his family from travelling to Norway to accept the award.

If that happens, it will be the first time the award has not been given out since 1936, when the Nazis banned journalist Carl von Ossietzky – a pacifist – from leaving Germany.

“As of this morning, 36 ambassadors had accepted our invitation, 16 had not replied and six had said 'no’,” Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad said.

"The six who have said no are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq.”

The Institute has invited all ambassadors based in the Norwegian capital to attend the December 10 ceremony as usual. The diplomats had until November 15 to say whether or not they would come.

However, following threats from Beijing of “consequences” for countries that support Mr Liu, a number of embassies had requested more time to reach a decision on whether to participate.

The Chinese embassy in Oslo sent a letter to other countries’ embassies in the city requesting that they refrain from attending the ceremony.

Despite the warning, most Western countries, including the Britain, United States, France and Germany have confirmed their attendance.

“I don’t know of any example where a country has so actively and directly tried to have ambassadors stay away from a Nobel ceremony,” Mr Lundestad said.

Mr Lundestad refused to comment on which countries had not yet replied, but Norwegian media reported that the embassies of India, Pakistan and Indonesia were among those that had said they were waiting for clearance from their home governments.

China was furious at the awarding of the prize to Mr Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion after demanding democratic reforms in the one-party Communist state.

Mr Liu, the leading democracy activist in China, is the first person from China to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee said the prize honoured his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

Under Norwegian Nobel Committee rules, the gold medal and $1.4m ($1m) prize can only be awarded to the winner, Mr Liu, or a close family member

Mr Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest. Mr Liu’s brothers were prevented from flying, while scores of his supporters have also reportedly been detained and had their telephone and internet connections blocked.

Mr Lundestad said no other relatives have announced plans to come to Oslo for the ceremony.

“The way it looks now, it is not likely that someone from his close family will attend,” he said. “Then we will not give out the medal and the diploma during the ceremony.”

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