Lawyer Slams Nobel Ban

The 2010 Nobel ceremony would mark the first time in more than 70 years that no one has collected the award for a recipient.
2010-11-19
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Liu Xiaobo, in an undated photo.
Liu Xiaobo, in an undated photo.
RFA

A lawyer for jailed Chinese dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has hit out at the Chinese government for preventing any of his relatives from accepting the award in Oslo.

"It's a pretty shameful affair," said Shang Baojun, Liu's legal representative.

"In the past, usually there has been someone able to receive the prize [on the laureate's behalf]," Shang said.

"This situation is setting a very bad precedent."

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, is currently under house arrest at the couple's Beijing home, and all of the dissident's relatives and close associates have been told that they won't be given clearance to attend.

Dozens of political and human rights activists have been held under temporary house arrest, and prevented from leaving the country for any reason since the Oct. 8 announcement.

Norway's Nobel Institute confirmed on Friday that the award ceremony would go ahead, although the physical handing of the award to the recipient was likely to be skipped.

"There will be a very magnificent and dignified ceremony before a full house, of course," Nobel Committee member Geir Lundestad said in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

"If no one in [Liu's] family can come, we will have to drop those two-to-three minutes ... when the medal and diploma are usually handed over," he said.

'Lack of respect'

China reacted furiously when the award was announced on Oct. 8, saying it amounted to a lack of respect for its legal system, as Liu is currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion.

Chinese diplomats have put pressure on foreign dignitaries not to attend, and six countries, including Russia, Cuba, and Iraq, have said they will not come.

Most Western countries, including the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, have said they will attend.

Zhang Yu, a spokesman for the Independent Chinese PEN writers' group, said some in China, especially those who support Liu and his controversial Charter 08—an online document calling for greater political freedom in China—still hope to attend the ceremony, however.

"Some of us will be attending the award ceremony in Oslo," he said.

"We are planning a campaign with some other groups to protest at the Chinese embassy, including a campaign for the release of Liu Xiaobo and all Chinese prisoners of conscience," Zhang said.

"[We also want] to protest that Liu Xiaobo's friends will not be allowed to attend, and also that many people have been prevented from leaving China at all," he said.

Unprecedented absence

Lundestad said the prize would still be handed over, even if someone from Liu's family arrives at the very last minute to accept it on his behalf.

"We're just saying that if no one shows up, part of the ceremony will most likely be dropped," he said.

If this happens, it will be the first time the prize has not been handed out in more than 70 years, although four previous laureates have been unable to attend in person.

The 1935 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to German Carl von Ossietzky and the ceremony was held in 1936. The German Propaganda Ministry declared publicly that Ossietzky was free to go to Norway to accept the prize, but secret police documents indicate that Ossietzky was refused a passport and kept under tight surveillance until his death in 1938.

The 1975 prize was received by the wife of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, who was prevented from attending by Soviet authorities. The wife of Lech Walesa received the union leader's prize in 1983, amid fears he would be barred from returning to Poland.

And the prize of 1991 Burmese winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released a week ago from years of house arrest in Rangoon, was picked up at the Oslo ceremony by her two sons.

Norwegian actress Liv Ullman has agreed to read one of Liu's essays in place of the traditional speech given by peace laureates.

Large numbers of Chinese activists, lawyers, and scholars have been stopped at airports or border crossings while trying to travel overseas in recent weeks, and warned that their travel bans are linked to state security concerns.

Rights groups say authorities fear that the people concerned will try to attend the Nobel prize award ceremony in Oslo.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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