'Liu Xiaobo must be freed' - Nobel prize committee Skip to main content

'Liu Xiaobo must be freed' - Nobel prize committee

Nobel chairman Thorbjorn Jagland with an empty chair for laureate Liu Xiaobo (on the poster) - 10 December 2010
The chairman of the Nobel prize committee has called for the immediate release of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Peace Prize.
There were two standing ovations at the ceremony in Oslo for Mr Liu, who was represented only by an empty chair.
China has been angered by the award and has waged a campaign in recent weeks to discredit it.
Nobel chairman Thorbjorn Jagland praised China for lifting millions of people out of poverty.
He called it an "extraordinary achievement" but warned China that its new status as a leading world power meant Beijing "must regard criticism as positive".
'Quest for freedom'
China condemned the ceremony as a "political farce".
In a statement, the foreign ministry said: "We resolutely oppose any country or any person using the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere with China's internal affairs or infringe upon China's legal sovereignty."
Actress Liv Ullmann read out a statement from Mr Liu which he made to a court at the time of his trial in December 2009.
"I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future, free China," his statement said.
"For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme."
The UN says it had information that China detained at least 20 activists ahead of the ceremony.
A further 120 cases of house arrest, travel restriction, forced relocation and other acts of intimidation have been reported.
The BBC's English and Chinese language websites have been blocked, and BBC TV coverage was blacked out inside China.
Mr Jagland said the Nobel committee was calling for Mr Liu to be freed immediately, saying: "He hasn't done anything wrong."

Why China considers Liu Xiaobo a threat

  • 1989: leading activist in Tiananmen Square protests for democratisation; jailed for two years
  • 1996: spoke out against China's one-party system; sent to labour camp for three years
  • 2008: co-author of Charter 08, calling for a new constitution, an independent judiciary and freedom of expression;
  • 2009: jailed for subversion for 11 years; verdict says he "had the goal of subverting our country's people's democratic dictatorship and socialist system. The effects were malign and he is a major criminal".
Mr Liu, one of China's leading dissidents, is serving an 11-year sentence in a jail in north-east China for state subversion.
Police are stationed outside his home in Beijing where his wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest.
Mr Jagland compared China's anger at the award to the outcry over peace prizes awarded to other dissidents of their times, including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
He said Mr Liu was dedicating his prize to "the lost souls from 4 June", those who died in the pro-democracy protests on that date in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
"We can say (Mr) Liu reminds us of Nelson Mandela," he said. The former South African president received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Of about 50 countries invited to the Nobel ceremony, almost a third have stayed away, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, many as a result of Chinese pressure.
However, Serbia - which had previously said it would not attend - announced on Friday that it would be sending a representative.

China press comments

China's English-language newspapers had big front-page articles about the Nobel Peace Prize - and China's objection to the award.
But the issue was given less prominence in Chinese-language newspapers.
The two most important stories on the front page of the Beijing Morning Post were about vehicle tax and private kindergartens.
There was, however, a commentary piece in the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's newspaper.
It ran an editorial attacking the Nobel Peace Prize committee, saying it faced an "unprecedented embarrassing situation".
But it also felt compelled to defend China's position in not allowing Liu Xiaobo to attend the prize ceremony.
"No country in the world that is governed by laws would allow a high-sounding criminal to leave and 'pick up an award'," said the commentary.
And the Chinese-language Global Times suggested there was great division among countries about whether the award was a good thing.
The Serbian government, which has warm relations with China, had come under pressure from within the European Union and from political parties and civil society groups in Serbia to attend.
Beijing has sought to prevent anyone travelling from China to Oslo to collect the prize on Mr Liu's behalf.
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Oslo says that to the Nobel Committee, Liu Xiaobo symbolises a message it was keen to send to China - that its growing economic strength and power do not exempt it from universal standards of human rights.
On the other hand, China says the committee has chosen a criminal convicted under Chinese law to serve the interests of certain Western countries, our correspondent says.
Liu Xiaobo first came to prominence when he took part in the 1989 protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
He was sent to prison for nearly two years for his role, and has been a critic of the Chinese government ever since.
He was given an 11-year prison sentence in December 2009 for inciting the subversion of state power, a charge which came after he co-authored a document known as Charter 08.
The document calls openly for political reforms in China, such as a separation of powers and legislative democracy.

Countries boycotting Nobel ceremony

  • China, Vietnam, Kazakhstan
  • Russia
  • Venezuela, Cuba
  • Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria
  • Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt
  • Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka
This year marks the first time since 1936 that the Nobel Peace Prize, now worth $1.5m, will not be handed out.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday again called for Mr Liu to be released "as soon as possible".
The Chinese government has been furious about the award ever since it was announced in October that Liu Xiaobo had won it.
Beijing says that Mr Liu is a criminal, and insists that giving him a prize is an insult to China's judicial system.
As well as putting Liu Xia, the Nobel laureate's wife, under house arrest, the authorities have put pressure on other activists and dissidents.
Some have been prevented from leaving the country, while others have been forced to leave their homes for the next few days, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
One of those to disappear, it said, was Zhang Zuhua, the man who co-wrote Charter 08.

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