Asia-Pacific

China Nobel row: Prize 'not enforcing Western values'

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Media captionThorbjorn Jagland: "This is not a prize against China"

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident is not an attempt to enforce Western values on China, organisers say.

The award to Liu Xiaobo was about universal human rights and "honouring people in China", Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said.

Beijing has said nations which attend Friday's award ceremony in Oslo will be showing disrespect to China.

The US said the dissident should be allowed to collect the award in person.

At least 18 nations are set to boycott the ceremony.

Liu Xiaobo, 54, was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Last year he received an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion" and will not be in Oslo. The Nobel Foundation has praised Mr Liu for his "long and non-violent struggle".

'Strong symbol'

After Thursday saw China step up its campaign to try to discredit the Nobel Committee, Mr Jagland insisted the award was "not a prize against China. This is a prize honouring people in China".

He said: "This is not a protest, it is a signal to China that it would be very important for China's future to combine economic development with political reforms and support for those in China fighting for basic human rights.

"This prize conveys the understanding that these are universal rights and universal values, they are not Western standards."

Mr Jagland said all members of the United Nations had signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and they had "certain obligations because of this".

He said Mr Liu's empty chair at the awards ceremony in the Norwegian capital on Friday would be "a very strong symbol [that] shows how appropriate this prize was".

It will be the first time since 1936 that the prize, now worth $1.5m, will not be handed out.

Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed solidarity with Mr Liu, saying that as one human being to another she would like to hold out a hand of sympathy.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday again called for Mr Liu to be released "as soon as possible".

China's foreign ministry called on countries to boycott the ceremony.

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said: "We hope those countries that have received the invitation can tell right from wrong."

At least 18 nations are set to boycott the event. Ukraine, which had earlier declined an invitation, will now attend, the Nobel Committee said, as will the Philippines. The attendance of Argentina is in doubt.

Amnesty International accused China of pressuring members of Norway's Chinese community to join protests on Friday against the awards ceremony.

'Clowns'

China's foreign ministry insisted Mr Liu had not been convicted only for his calls for more democracy but had actively tried to subvert state power.

Earlier this week, Ms Jiang referred to the members of the Nobel committee as "clowns", and accused them of orchestrating an "anti-China fuss".

Separately in Beijing, a group of academics has awarded the first Confucius Peace Prize to Taiwan's former vice-president Lien Chan for brokering warmer ties between Beijing and Taipei.

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Media captionDemocracy activist Wuer Kaixi will attend the ceremony

The head of the prize jury, Tan Changliu, a professor at Beijing Normal University, said the award had been planned for "a long time" and denied it was a stunt.

Meanwhile, the BBC website appears to have been blocked in China.

Users in several parts of the country have reported that they are unable to access the BBC's internet site and the BBC has noticed a steep drop in traffic from China.

It is the first time the BBC's English-language website has been blocked since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Access to other international news sites such as CNN also appears to be blocked.

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