China still smarting over Liu Nobel

China said on Thursday it was difficult to maintain “friendly relations” with Norway, following the Oslo-based Nobel committee’s decision to award this year’s Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident.

“The Norwegian government expressed open support [for the prize]. It is difficult to maintain friendly relations with Norway as in the past,” foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told reporters.

In October, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, who was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold petition calling for democratic reform in one-party China.

Beijing was furious over the decision to honour Liu, saying it was tantamount to encouraging crime.

Wife still under house arrest
Liu is to be honoured at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on December 10, though neither the jailed writer nor members of his family are expected to attend. His wife Liu Xia is under house arrest.

“The Nobel committee gave this year’s peace prize to a criminal serving a sentence because of breaking the law in China,” Jiang said.

“It is in open support of criminal activities in China and it is a flagrant provocation and interference in China’s judicial sovereignty,” she said.

“If competent authorities in China have concerns and reservations over forging ahead in promoting cooperative relations with Norway, it is understandable.”

Oslo said on Tuesday that Beijing had indefinitely postponed negotiations with Norway aimed at concluding a free trade accord, in what appeared to be the latest repercussion over the Nobel Peace Prize.

According to an informal schedule, a new round of trade talks between the two countries had been set to take place around the new year.

But the Chinese have “indicated that they needed more time for internal consultations before a new date can be set for this meeting,” said Norwegian trade and industry ministry spokesperson.

Pelosi to attend ceremony
China has pressured nations not to attend the Nobel ceremony.
Six countries—China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq—have so far told the Nobel Institute they would not take part.

However, the Nobel Institute said outgoing US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—the third-highest official under the US Constitution—would come to Oslo, in unusually high representation for a ceremony usually attended by ambassadors.

With neither Liu nor any of his close relatives able to attend, the Nobel Peace Prize will not be handed over during the ceremony for only the second time in its history.

The last time that happened was in 1936.

Radical German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, awarded the Peace Prize in 1935, could not attend because he was interned in a Nazi concentration camp. In obscure circumstances, a German lawyer showed up and pocketed his prize.

Burma democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest when she won the prize in 1991 but her teenage sons, who are half British, accepted on her behalf.

The junta in Burma freed Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month, leaving Liu as the only detained Nobel laureate. - AFP

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