Winner to miss Nobel ceremony as China steps up security

China stepped up security at key locations in Beijing before Friday's ceremony in Oslo awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Winner to miss Nobel ceremony as China steps up security

China stepped up security at key locations in Beijing and maintained a clampdown on contacts of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo hours before Friday's ceremony in Oslo awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Official newspapers said the decision to award the prize to Liu, sentenced last December to 11 years jail for subversion, marked an attempt to impose foreign values on China.

"Today in Norway's Oslo, there will be a farce staged: 'The Trial of China'," the popular Global Times, run by the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, said in an editorial.

The BBC said its English-language website appeared to have been blocked in several areas of China, for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Access to other international news sites also appeared to be restricted.

Beijing, exercising a political influence growing with its economic power, has pressed countries to stay away from the ceremony honouring a man closely involved in the 1989 "Tiananmen" protests that challenged Communist Party power.

The former literature professor's wife has told Reuters that her husband wants to dedicate the prize to those who died when troops crushed the protest, killing, according to witnesses and rights groups, hundreds or thousands of people. Beijing has never given numbers for casualties in the action.

Greater numbers of police vehicles and officers patrolled key points in Beijing, including Tiananmen Square. Security was also tight around Liu's apartment, where Liu's wife is believed to be under house arrest, and the Norwegian embassy. Police turned away a group of German diplomats who tried to visit her.

"Universal values"

Liu's fame overseas was lost, however, on most residents in Beijing, where memories of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protestors have faded amid an economic boom..

"Everything is different now since the revolt of 1989. People's ideas have changed. China has changed," said businesswoman Ma Junpeng. "People like Liu are irrelevant."

China was infuriated by the Committee's award to a man it labels a criminal, and the row with the Nobel Committee has spilled over into wider diplomacy.

The Nobel Committee said on Thursday human rights were basic "universal values" but Communist Party ideologists consider the phrase to be code for Western liberal values.

"Boycott"

Several nations have heeded Beijing's call to boycott the ceremony, many of them mindful of China's growing economic clout. China declared that the "vast majority" of nations would boycott but the Norwegian award committee said two-thirds of those invited would attend.

Both the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the senior member of the House foreign afairs committee, Chris Smith, said they would attend Friday's ceremony after the House's 402-1 passage of a bill calling on China to release Liu.

"Sadly, the Chinese government shares with the governments of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union the terrible distinction of being the only governments of major nations to block a Nobel Peace Prize recipient from accepting the prize," Smith said in a statement. He said he was "outraged that nearly 20 nations have been strong-armed by China to boycott the ceremony".

The Nobel committee has decided to represent the laureate with an empty chair during the ceremony, in what it said was a symbol of Chinese policy to isolate and repress dissidents.

Authorities have cracked down on activists in the run-up to Oslo and have prevented Liu's friends and family from attending.

It will be the first time that a laureate under detention has not been formally represented since Nazi Germany barred pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from attending in 1935.

Liu was lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for democratic reform in the one-party state.

Among the dissidents who have been rounded up by police are Charter 08 co-organiser Zhang Zuhua, who was abducted off the street, and author Yu Jie, who recently wrote a book criticising Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Zhang Xianling, who lost her son in the Tiananmen protests, said she had been taken to the southwestern province of Yunnan this week to try to prevent her talking to reporters.

"I think the Nobel Peace Prize is helpful in pushing forward democratic politics, otherwise the government would not be frightened like this," she said by telephone.

Gao Mingxuan, a Chinese criminal law expert, told the state-run Xinhua news agency Liu's activities amounted to an attempt to overthrow the socialist system".

"If Chinese people do act according to his desire, the country will surely suffer from wars and conflicts, destroying the present peace which China has gained with great efforts."

Now the world's second-largest economy, China views criticism of its human rights record as a bid to contain its growing might and it has repeatedly said any changes to its political system should not emulate Western democracies.



Reuters

Last Mod: 10 Aralık 2010, 15:12
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