China Steps Up Nobel Pressure

Beijing protests a U.S. resolution in support of a jailed Chinese Nobel prize recipient.

osloprotest305.jpg A protester stands outside the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Dec. 9, 2010.

Beijing on Thursday hit out at a U.S. congressional resolution in support of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and blocked overseas news websites ahead of the award ceremony in Oslo on Friday.

"We urge relevant U.S. lawmakers to stop their wrongdoing on this issue, change their arrogant and rude attitude, and show due respect for the Chinese people and China's judicial sovereignty," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing.

Jiang said Wednesday's resolution passed by the House of Representatives by 402 votes to one, congratulating Liu and calling for his release, was a distortion of reality.

"[It] disregards facts and distorts truth, and is a flagrant interference in China's internal affairs," Jiang said.

The websites of television networks CNN, the BBC and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK appeared to be blocked on the Chinese mainland on Thursday, making it hard for Chinese netizens to follow the live webcast of Friday's lavish ceremony.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on political activists since Liu, currently serving an 11-year jail term for subversion, was named the Nobel Peace Prize recipient on Oct. 8.

Liu's closest relatives are being held under house arrest, and dozens of his supporters say are being kept under close surveillance and prevented from leaving China.

Beijing-based journalist Gao Yu was the latest to be taken away on a "trip" outside the capital ahead of the ceremony, her son, surnamed Zhang, said.

"They wanted to keep my mother at home for two days but she refused," Zhang said. "So they took her just outside the city. She'll come back on Dec. 11."

Meanwhile, exiled Chinese dissidents living in Thailand were detained on Thursday, according to Bangkok-based author Guo Qinghai.

"I don't usually answer my door to keep some peace and quiet for my writing, so that was probably why I didn't get detained," Guo said.

Among those detained in Thailand were Sun Shucai, Lu Jiahe and Qiu Yingfei, sources said.

International pressure

Chinese officials have refused to attend the Nobel award ceremony, and have put pressure on diplomats from other countries to boycott the event.

The Nobel committee has said that 19 countries, including China, the Philippines and Kenya will boycott the ceremony.

Nobel organizers tried Thursday to dampen growing anger in Beijing on the eve of the ceremony, insisting the honor was not targeted against China.

In a packed Nobel Institute, decked out for the Christmas season with wreaths and red bows and flowers, committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said on Thursday that the award had not been intended as an attack.

"This is not a prize against China," Jagland told a news conference in Oslo that is traditionally held by the peace laureate on the eve of the ceremony. "This is a prize honoring people in China."

But he added: "In today's world it is impossible to close a country."

Counter prize

A Beijing group on Thursday rolled out its own peace prize, naming the first recipient as Taiwanese former vice-president Lien Chan.

"This is an important event both inside our country, and internationally," said Tan Changliu, chairman of the Confucius Prize committee and philosophy professor at the Beijing Normal University.

The Confucius prize sprang from an article in the official Global Times newspaper in November, after the Nobel committee's Oct. 8 decision sparked fury in Beijing.

The paper, which is linked to the Communist Party official paper, the People's Daily, said in a commentary on Thursday that the prize was an attempt to undermine China.

"The West is using this year's Nobel Peace Prize to sound the charge against China's ideology, aiming to undermine the benign surroundings for China's future development," the article said.

"The West has not ceased harassing China with all kinds of tricks like the Nobel Peace Prize," it added. "Is there a 'plot' among the Western countries against China?"

Tan said the Confucius Prize was a purely non-government operation, however. "We want to promote peace to new heights," he said.

But he declined to give details of the nomination and selection process. "That is extremely complicated and hard to explain in words," he said.

Lien Chan's office said it had no knowledge of the award, however.

Reported by Ding Xiao, Xin Yu, and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Grace Kei Lai-see and Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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