Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo in Oct 28, 2008 Liu Xiaobo: Jailed for 11 years in December 2009

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Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been named the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Making the announcement in Oslo, the head of the Norwegian Nobel committee said Mr Liu was "the foremost symbol" of the human rights struggle in China.

Several countries including the US, France and Germany, called for his immediate release.

China said the award could damage ties with Norway, and summoned the country's ambassador in Beijing in protest.

Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland admitted he knew the choice would be controversial.

He told local television before the announcement: "You'll understand when you hear the name."

'Curtailed freedom'

Mr Jagland, reading the citation, said China's new status in the world "must entail increased responsibility".

"China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights."

Analysis

In the weeks leading up to this announcement, Beijing was very strong in its statements. It said that Liu Xiaobo was not a suitable candidate. Beijing regards him as a criminal and said the award could damage relations between China and Norway.

Many Chinese people will see this as an attack by the West on what they stand for and certainly many nationalists will see this as an example of the West trying to demonise China.

The statement of the Nobel Peace Prize committee will not get a lot of traction with ordinary people. The authorities have very effectively given him no publicity whatsoever.

Mr Jagland said that, in practice, freedoms enshrined in China's constitution had "proved to be distinctly curtailed for China's citizens".

He said the choice of Mr Liu had become clear early in the selection process.

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

Last year he received an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion" after drafting Charter 08 - which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

The Nobel Foundation citation read: "Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and fundamental human rights."

It praised Mr Liu for his "long and non-violent struggle" and highlighted its belief in a "close connection between human rights and peace".

Ending the citation, Mr Jagland said: "The campaign to establish universal human rights in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad.

"Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China."

Liu Xiaobo's wife talks to the BBC about visiting her husband

Beijing quickly condemned the award, saying it could damage China-Norway relations.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said: "Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. It's a complete violation of the principles of the prize and an insult to the peace prize itself for the Nobel committee to award the prize to such a person."

Later Norway said its ambassador in Beijing had been summoned to the Chinese foreign ministry.

"They wanted to officially share their... disagreement and their protest," a Norwegian spokeswoman said.

"We emphasised that this is an independent committee and the need to continue good bilateral relations," she added.

Unlike other Nobel prizes, which are administered in Sweden, the peace prize is awarded in Oslo by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament.

10 Years of Peace Prize Winners

  • 2010: Liu Xiaobo
  • 2009: Barack Obama
  • 2008: Martti Ahtisaari
  • 2007: Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • 2006: Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank
  • 2005: IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei
  • 2004: Wangari Maathai
  • 2003: Shirin Ebadi
  • 2002: Jimmy Carter
  • 2001: Kofi Annan and the United Nations

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said it would be "negative for China's reputation in the world" if it chose to punish his country over the award.

Mr Liu's wife, Liu Xia, said she was "so excited" by the award.

She told AFP news agency: "I want to thank everyone for supporting Liu Xiaobo. I strongly ask that the Chinese government release Liu."

Mrs Liu said police had informed her they would take her to Mr Liu's prison in the north-eastern province of Liaoning on Saturday so she could give him the news.

The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5m; £944,000) and will be awarded in Oslo on 10 December.

US President Barack Obama said Mr Liu had "has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs" and called for his speedy release.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said China should free him so he could attend the ceremony.

France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also welcomed the award and also called on China to release Mr Liu.

Thorbjoern Jagland with the citation

UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said the prize recognised a "very prominent human rights defender".

The London-based rights group Amnesty International said Mr Liu was a "worthy winner".

But Catherine Baber, Amnesty's deputy Asia-Pacific director, added: "This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails."

No candidates are announced ahead of the peace prize but others mentioned in the media included Afghan women's rights activist Sima Samar, Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Nobel committee had to defend last year's controversial peace prize choice of US President Barack Obama.

Your comments

I think Western countries still view my country with prejudice. Maybe at the moment China is not as free as your country. But we can make decisions quickly which makes our government one of the most efficient in the world. Does anyone want China to become another India?

Wang Fan, Dalian, Liaoning

Really this is great news, it imposes a great pressure on the Chinese government. It demonstrates the huge consensus among the people in and outside China except the authoritarian governments. We only need time, maybe 10 years or 20. One day people will achieve this victory.

"Bob", Guangzhou

His story never appears in books, news, forums or anywhere, except his sentence of 11 years in jail.

Hu, Beijing

I am a Chinese and I am so surprised to hear the news. But I cannot find anything about it in China.

Penn, Xuzhou

It is strange. In China, if you did a survey most would say this guy should be sent to the prison. If we followed his ideas, China would be unstable and that would be worse for most Chinese people. What do you think of the present situation in China? We have good economic situation and increasing living standard of the people. Is that not what the Norwegian people want? Or does the committee in Norway want a weak and backward China?

Jack, Shanghai

Every country has its own faith and culture. You Western countries shouldn't look at us through your own eyes. We have our own faith and culture to follow. Since Liu Xiaobo is Chinese, he must follow Chinese rules. So he is not the human rights fighter and he doesn't deserve the prize.

Penghong, Chengdu, Sichuan

What else can be more encouraging and touching to happen to the democracy in China? This is a beginning of a worldwide recognition of the striving democratic movement in China. The award will certainly bring more attention from the world on the democratic situation in China.

Hoien L Cadogan, Hong Kong, China

Although the Nobel Committee president claims that Liu Xiaobo is "the foremost symbol of the wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China" it is a crying shame he wasn't awarded this prize last year before he was imprisoned. This would have generated more international awareness of his activism and levied more pressure on Beijing.

Stephen, Nanjing

As an editor for an English language newspaper on the Chinese mainland, I can say that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo is going to cause a great many red faces in officialdom - and a quandary for the Chinese media. While most ordinary Chinese have not heard of Mr Liu (the media is forbidden from mentioning his name), the prominence of the award is such that even China's strict media controls will be unable to prevent this news from circulating.

Robert, China

Having taught at the University of Guangxi in Guangxi Province, I can imagine what most of my second-year University students will say about the Nobel Prize just awarded to Mr Liu. They will think of it as one more proof of the West's dislike of China's culture and China's way of life.

Sal, Panjin, Lianing Province, China

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