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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China dissidents top Nobel Peace Prize speculation

October 10, 2009

(AP) - October 7, 2009

OSLO - Chinese dissidents are leading the odds of winning the Nobel Peace
Prize this year, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and
the 60th since the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

Speculation on the chances of Chinese dissidents for the peace prize,
announced this year on Friday, has been a yearly ritual. But this time
there's a stronger current of expectation surrounding critics of China's
long-standing communist regime.

Emerging superpower China remains deeply sensitive about criticism of its
bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. And
awarding dissidents would be a major poke-in-the-eye in the year the
communist regime celebrates its diamond jubilee.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee is famous for making grand symbolic gestures
aimed at influencing the world agenda, as in 1989 when, in the wake of the
Tiananmen massacre, the prize went to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader.

U.S. President Barack Obama is thought to have been nominated but it's
unclear on what grounds.

Nobel watchers say he could be a contender for next year's prize, following
his lofty call for global nuclear disarmament at the United Nations last
month, which came after the nomination deadline for the 2009 prize.

Other possible contenders include human rights activists from Colombia,
Jordan, Russia, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

Despite the strong buzz surrounding Chinese dissidents, the Nobel committee
said the race wasn't over.

"We have not come to a final conclusion," the committee's nonvoting
secretary Geir Lundestad told The Associated Press late last week. "We will
meet again and decide."

In his 1895 will, award founder Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize
should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for
fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing
armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, he
said the peace prize should be given out by a five-member committee elected
by the Norwegian Parliament. Sweden and Norway were united under the same
crown at the time of Nobel's death.

The committee has taken a wide interpretation of Nobel's guidelines,
expanding the prize beyond peace mediation to include efforts to combat
poverty, disease and climate change. Some experts believe the committee will
turn to human rights this year, because it hasn't picked a human rights
activist since tapping Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for the prize in 2003.

"Twenty years since Tiananmen Square? Maybe a Chinese?" said Dan Smith, of
the London-based International Alert peace group.

Possible candidates could be Hu Jia, a human rights activist and an
outspoken critic of the Chinese government, who was sentenced last year to a
three-and-a-half-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power."
Another could be Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for
urging reforms of China's communist system. He now lives in the United

Chinese dissidents also topped speculation in 2008, when the 10 million
kronor ($1.4 million) award went to Finland's ex-president Martti Ahtisaari
for decades of work as a peace mediator. That year, Chinese officials
reacted angrily to the mere suggestion that a critic of its regime might win
the prize.

The Nobel committee, however, has tended to ignore such pressure. Twenty
years ago, it brushed aside Beijing's threats of diplomatic reprisals and
awarded the prize to the Dalai Lama. This year also marks 50 years since
China seized full control of Tibet.

Both Hu and Wei are among the favorites according to Irish bookmaker
PaddyPower, which also gives low odds to Obama.

Obama embraced the goal of a nuclear-free world in an agenda-setting speech
in April and renewed that commitment as the 15-nation U.N. Security Council
last month unanimously approved an ambitious strategy to stop the
proliferation of atomic weapons.

"In many ways we have a strong candidate for next year, Obama and other
world leaders" who backed the U.N. resolution, said Jan Egeland, director of
Oslo's Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. "But too late for this

Egeland was one of the key architects of the Oslo accords, a much-lauded
series of negotiations between Israel and Palestine that came in 1993.
Parties on both sides shared the peace prize the following year.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo,
said his top guess was Piedad Cordoba, a senator and leader of Colombians
for Peace, an organization whose aim is to facilitate peace negotiations
between the government and the country's leftist FARC guerrillas.

Harpviken, who stressed that the institute has no inside information, also
mentioned Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a philosophy professor in Jordan who
advocates interfaith dialogue in a region shot through with sectarian
violence, and Afghan human rights activist Sima Samar. She currently leads
the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and serves as the U.N.
special envoy to Darfur.

As always, the prize committee has remained tightlipped about who's been
nominated, saying only that a record 205 groups and individuals were put
forward by the nomination deadline. The list of each year's nominees is kept
sealed for half a century.

Those with nomination rights include members of national governments;
university professors in history, political science, philosophy, law and
theology; and former peace prize laureates.

The names of some candidates are known because those making the nomination
have announced their pick.

Egeland, for example, said he nominated Denis Mukwege, a physician in the
war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo who opened a clinic to help rape

"He is working for the people in the biggest war," he said. "Sometimes the
committee has to address the biggest wars."
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