Nobel Peace Prize faces boycotts over Liu Xiaobo

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Liu Xiaobo in Oct 28, 2008
Image caption,
Liu Xiaobo is praised for his "non-violent struggle"

China and 18 other countries have said they will not attend Friday's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has said.

Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran are among those that will be absent, while 44 countries will attend.

A Chinese official said a "vast majority" of countries would stay away.

China would not change because of "interference by a few clowns", said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

The committee describes Mr Liu as "the foremost symbol" of the human rights struggle in China.

It said in a statement that the envoys of Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco would miss the event "for various reasons".

"Some have obviously been influenced by China, for others this has nothing to do with China," the committee's secretary, Geir Lundestad, told the BBC.

The committee said that two more countries, Sri Lanka and Algeria, had not replied, and 44 would attend.

The United Nations' most senior human rights official, Navi Pillay, has been criticised for saying she will not attend.

By way of comparison, the statement said that 10 embassies were absent from the 2008 ceremony for former Finnish President and UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

Mr Lundestad said "important" countries such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia would attend, adding that this was "highly appreciated".

'Long struggle'

Meanwhile Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that more than 100 countries supported Beijing.

"Those at the Nobel Committee are orchestrating an anti-China fuss by themselves," Ms Jiang said.

"We are against anybody making an issue out of Liu Xiaobo and interfering in China's judicial affairs," she said. "We will not change because of interference by a few clowns."

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".

However, neither he nor members of his family will be allowed to receive the prize in person.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since the award was announced, and friends and supporters have been prevented from leaving China.

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