China vents fury at dissident's Nobel award

Supporters of Liu Xiaobo outside China' s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, 8 October 2010 Liu Xiaobo was virtually unknown in China before Friday

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This was a story that made headlines round the world. But in China's state-run media the anger of the authorities in Beijing was on full display.

One editorial in the Global Times newspaper said in English: "Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed."

"On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself."

The paper's Chinese-language edition called the award "an arrogant showcase of Western ideology" and said that it had disrespected the Chinese people.

In the age of internet state media were perhaps forced to announce that Liu Xiaobo had won.

But almost all the reporting was fashioned around a statement made by the Foreign Ministry, describing Mr Liu as a "criminal" - and saying the decision to award him the prize was an "obscenity."

Some international news channels - which are not widely available in China anyway - were blocked on Friday night when running reports on Liu Xiaobo. Those blocked included the BBC.

And there has been little mention of Mr Liu on China's normally very active blogging sites.

The Nobel prizes are well known here.

'National humiliation'

Every year, the authorities and many Chinese hope that one of the country's authors, scientists or economists wins the prize in their field of expertise.

In a country that invented gun-powder and paper, there is much hand-wringing that no Chinese national has ever picked up a prize for scientific work.

Start Quote

The government doesn't know how to react to the news of Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel prize”

End Quote Pu Zhiqiang Activist lawyer

But the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a jailed dissident was not the recognition that authorities here crave.

They will view the award as a deliberate snub by the West designed to undermine China, which is on track to have the world's second largest economy by the end of year.

The Chinese Communist Party is extremely sensitive to outside criticism. Part of it stems from the challenge to the party's authority.

But in China there remains an antipathy to foreign powers - dating back to the Opium Wars launched by Britain in the mid 19th Century.

Schoolchildren learn about this period called by some historians as the "century of national humiliation".

Even today, many Chinese believe that foreign powers want to keep their country weak and divided.

Spotlight

Before Friday, Liu Xiaobo was virtually unknown in China. The authorities here work hard to stamp out political dissent as soon as it appears.

Supporters of Mr Liu, however, hope the prize will shine a spotlight on China's human rights record.

The prison in Jinzhou, Liaoning province, where Liu Xiaobo is being held Many Chinese believe that foreign powers want to keep their country weak and divided

But according to reports, at least some of China's most prominent activist lawyers said they were being harassed by police.

Lawyers Pu Zhiqiang, Jiang Tianyong and others said they were not allowed to leave their homes.

"The government doesn't know how to react to the news of Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel prize," Mr Pu told the Associated Press News Agency. "They are nervous, fearful and are acting chaotically."

When the BBC tried to reach Liu Xiaobo's wife - Liu Xia - her mobile phone was switched off.

She said on Friday that she would be visiting her husband in jail on Saturday. Reporters, however, have been kept away from the prison in the north-east of the country.

And it is still not clear whether Liu Xiaobo even knows if he is this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

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