China livid as Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize winner

Human rights campaigner wins prize, but Beijing warns of consequences for Norway over ‘blasphemy’

BY Jonathan Harwood LAST UPDATED AT 15:39 ON Fri 8 Oct 2010

If the Nobel Peace prize is supposed to generate goodwill between nations, then this year's award would appear to have backfired already.

The Chinese government has reacted furiously to the Nobel jury's decision to give the award to dissident and human rights campaigner Liu Xiaobo, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for "agitation aimed at subverting the government".

Beijing warned that the decision would damage relations between China and Norway and described the result as a "blasphemy".

The Chinese foreign ministry said: "Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law.

"What he has done is contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize... Awarding the peace to Liu runs completely counter to the principle of the award and is also a blasphemy to the Peace Prize."

It is a measure of Beijing's displeasure at the award that when the news was announced on Friday morning both CNN and the BBC News channels went off air in China.

The Chinese government's opinion of Liu is at odds to that of Nobel committee, which lauded his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

And the decision was welcomed in other quarters. The Dalai Lama, who himself won the prize in 1989, congratulated Liu and called on China to release him.

Human rights group Amnesty International also welcomed the decision and said: "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 for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

Liu has long been a thorn in the side of the Chinese regime. He was first jailed for his role in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, which ended in a massacre. He also served three years in a labour camp in the 90s.

He was arrested in December 2008 after co-authoring a document called Charter 08, demanding democratic reforms in China.

The Nobel judges who award the Peace Prize are no strangers to controversy. Last year they chose Barack Obama as the recipient, to widespread surprise and ridicule. · 

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