Asia-Pacific

China Nobel row: Beijing turns up anti-Nobel rhetoric

Liu Xiaobo in Oct 28, 2008
Image caption The Nobel Foundation has praised Liu Xiaobo for his "non-violent struggle" for political reforms in China

China has stepped up its campaign to try to discredit the Nobel Committee, ahead of the Peace Prize ceremony to honour jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

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

A Chinese group has awarded its own "peace prize" but denied it was stunt.

The Nobel Committee has said the prize is not a push for Western values in China but for global human rights.

"The rights explained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not Western values, or Western standards. They are global standards applied to every country of the world that is a member of the United Nations," committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told reporters in Oslo.

"They have all ratified the universal declaration, and they have certain obligations because of this. The most important obligation is to uphold basic human rights like freedom of expression."

Mr Jagland also said the empty chair at Friday's ceremony would not represent a protest but 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 is not a prize against China. This is a prize honouring those people [struggling for human rights] in China and Liu Xiaobo is one of the most prominent ones."

He also said the committee had expected the harsh criticism from Beijing but that it had to look at the mandate given by Alfred Nobel.

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.

'Clowns'

China's Foreign Ministry said countries who decided to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Friday would be showing disrespect to China.

"We hope those countries that have received the invitation can tell right from wrong," spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a news briefing.

She insisted Liu Xiaobo had not been convicted on the basis only of his calls for more democracy.

It went beyond remarks to actions, she said. China believed he had been actively trying 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".

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" after drafting Charter 08 - which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

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

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.

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

Lien Chan was not present to receive the award - his office in Taiwan said it knew nothing of the prize and he would not be travelling to China to pick it up.

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