China Childish over Nobel Peace Prize No Win Possible

China was enraged when the Norwegian Nobel Committee selected jailed pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo as this year’s Peace Prize winner. Now the People’s Republic has taken its revenge by effectively blocking the committee from handing out the prestigious award for the first time in 109 years.

According to Nobel rules, the $1.4 million prize can only be handed to the laureate or a close family member. Liu won’t be able to make next month’s ceremony in Oslo, Norway, as his calls for China to reform the one-party system earned him an 11-year prison sentence in December. His wife, Liu Xia, won’t be there either: Four days after Liu’s award was announced in October, she was placed under house arrest.

Liu Xiaobo

2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is shown in 2005 in Guangzhou in southern China.

The campaigners’ three brothers are also unlikely to attend, as they’re being subjected to round-the-clock surveillance. The most well known of his brothers, Liu Xiaoxuan, said in late October that he would travel to the event. But this week he sent a text message to a journalist that read: “I am being monitored, cannot take interviews, can only keep silent.”

Nobel Committee head Geir Lundestad today told Agence France-Presse that a “magnificent and dignified ceremony before a full house” would still take place on Dec. 10. But he admitted that “if no one in [Liu’s] family can come, we will have to drop those two to three minutes … when the medal and diploma are usually handed over.”

The event will also lack the traditional acceptance speech given by the prizewinner or that person’s representative. Instead, said Lundestad, Norwegian actress “Liv Ullmann will read a speech [Liu] has written. Not a new text, but a beautiful text.”

The dissident’s family won’t be the only absentees at next month’s celebrations. Five nations — Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq — turned down their Nobel invitations soon after China sent letters to foreign embassies in Norway warning of “consequences” if their diplomats attended the event. More countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, are expected to join the boycott in the next few days.

Russian Embassy spokesman Vladimir Isupov told The Associated Press that it was pure coincidence the country’s ambassador would be away from Norway at the time of the ceremony. “It is not politically motivated, and we do not feel we are pressured by China,” he said. However, as China is now a major buyer of Russian oil and gas, it’s highly likely that the Kremlin decided not to risk this profitable relationship.

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These events are unprecedented in the Nobel Institute’s 109-year history, as the Peace Prize winner, or a representative, has always been present in Oslo to collect the award. When Soviet physicist and human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov won the prize in 1975, his wife traveled to the Norwegian capital in his place as he was banned from leaving the USSR. Eight years later, Lech Walesa’s wife accepted the prize on behalf of the Polish union leader.

And in 1991 the two sons of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi — who was being held under house arrest at the time — collected her award. Following Suu Kyi’s release last week, she was immediately invited to give her belated acceptance speech in Oslo, but Lundestad told AFP this is unlikely to happen for at least another year.

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