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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China Tells Norway What to Do

September 30, 2010

And what not to. Don't award the Nobel Peace
Prize to a Chinese dissident, for instance.
John Berthelsen
Asia Sentinel
September 28, 2010

The announcement Monday by the head of the Nobel
Institute that China is warning against awarding
the Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident is the
latest manifestation of a growing nationalism on
China's part and an apparent belief that its
economic might gives it the right to tell the rest of the world what to do.

While no nation likes to be embarrassed by the
bestowal of such a prestigious award to someone
being kept in that country's jail cell, few if
any have the inclination or clout to bring
economic threats to bear on another country,
especially when the award is by an independent
committee with no ties to the government.

Nobel Institute Director Geir Lundestad told the
Norwegian news agency Norsk Telegrambyrå (NTB)
that China's Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying met
Lundestad in Oslo this summer to deliver the
message. Separately, a Hong Kong visitor who met
Norwegian officials earlier this year told Asia
Sentinel that "the government folks there said
they were under tremendous pressure from the
Communists not to give the Peace Prize as long
ago as last November. It is an outrageous example
of Beijing interfering in the internal affairs of small countries."

Lundestad described China's threat against Norway
after former Czech President Vaclav Havel and two
fellow former Czech dissidents, Dana Nemcova and
Vaclav Maly, called in an op-ed article in the
New York Times for the Nobel committee to award
the prize to Liu Xiaobo, a key drafter of the
so-called Charter 08 manifesto calling for
constitutional government in China as well as
respect for human rights and other democratic
reforms. The document was published to mark the
60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. It was ultimately signed by more than 10,000 people.

As the three pointed out, "the response of the
Chinese government to the Charter 08 document was
swift and brutal. Dozens if not hundreds of
signatories were called in for questioning. A
handful of perceived ringleaders were detained.
Professional promotions were held up, research
grants denied and applications to travel abroad
rejected. Newspapers and publishing houses were
ordered to blacklist anyone who had signed Charter 08."

Liu was arrested and held for more than a year
being put on trial for subversion and, in
December 2009, was sentenced to 11 years in
prison. He had already spent five years in prison
for his support of the Tiananmen Square protests
of 1989, which were ended brutally by Chinese tanks.

Havel is the former president of the Czech
Republic. Dana Nemcova is a leading Czech human
rights advocate. Vaclav Maly is the bishop of
Prague. All three signed the original Charter 77
calling on the Czech Communist Party to respect
human rights, which was considered a major blow
against the Communist domination of Eastern
Europe and, although they went to jail,
eventually a wave of similar democratic reforms swept Eastern Europe in 1989.

It isn't the first time the Chinese have warned
the Norwegians, although the Nobel committee is
independent and has no relationship with the
Norwegian government. In June, media reported, He
Guoqiang, a member of the Chinese Communist
Party's politburo standing committee, also raised
the issue of the Nobel Committee and its work
during a visit to Norway, Foreign Minister Jonas
Gahr Store was quoted in media reports at the time.

Lundestad said he was told that naming Liu "would
pull the wrong strings in relations between
Norway and China, it would be seen as an
unfriendly act," China has "come with warnings
before, but they have no influence on the
committee's work." At least two other dissidents,
AIDS activist Hu Jia and human rights lawyer Gao
Zhisheng, are believed to be among the nominees.
The prize is scheduled to be awarded on Oct. 8.

As Reuters pointed out in a dispatch from Oslo,
China and Norway are now engaged in talks over a
bilateral trade deal in which energy-rich Norway
is keen to export its offshore exploration
knowhow to China, with Norway's national oil and
gas champion Statoil announcing last month that
it aimed to look for shale gas in China.

The demand that the Nobel Committee drop
consideration of Liu for the Peace Prize is
hardly the first time China has threatened other
countries with retaliation for similar perceived
slights. The Chinese repeatedly told the United
States it could not allow Taiwanese government leaders to visit the US.

In 1995, when the US invited Taiwanese President
Lee Teng-hui to pay a private visit as an
"alumnus" who had studied in the US at Cornell
University, the Foreign Ministry issued a
statement expressing "great indignation and
raising strong protest" on a move that "infringed
upon China's sovereignty and interest, and
obstruct the great cause of China's peaceful
reunification. US Ambassador Stapleton Roy was
summoned to the ministry to answer for the visit.

Visits by the Dalai Lama,  Tibetan Buddhism's
highest religious leader, have been met with
similar bluster despite the fact that China has
usually allowed, sometimes with great fanfare,
many opponents of US foreign policy to visit in Beijing.

With the continuing claim to hegemony over the
entire South China Sea as well as the
rocket-rattling against Japan in the last two
weeks over some island specks known by the
Chinese known as the Diaoyus and the Senkakus by
the Japanese, China's Asian neighbors are
becoming increasingly alarmed although their
collective military might, compared to China's,
gives them few options. After the Japanese
arrested the captain of a fishing boat who was
accused of deliberately colliding with two
Japanese coast guard ships near the Diaoyus,
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Beijing had
suspended high-level contacts with Japan and
postponed talks on increasing flights between the
two countries. Eventually, the Japanese caved in
and sent the ship captain back.

In recent weeks, as the South China Morning Post
has noted, former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa
was dispatched to warn US Admiral Robert F.
Willard, the commander of the US Pacific Command
and the highest ranking US officer in Asia,
against further maneuvers by US carriers in the
Yellow Sea. In April, as Asia Sentinel reported
on Sept 21, the Chinese squeezed a 10-vessel
fleet through the Miyako Channel between Okinawa
and Miyako Island, two of a long string of
islands that stretch for more than 1,000 km from
the southern tip of Kyushu nearly as far as
Taiwan. Japan has controlled the islands, once
part of the Ryukyu kingdom, since 1895. Although
the channel between Miyako and Okinawa is
fractionally wide enough to qualify it as
international waters, the Chinese venture was looked upon with alarm in Japan.

These incidents appear to be threatening formerly
softening relations with South Korea, especially
given China's acceptance of North Korea's
protestations of innocence over the March sinking
of the patrol boat Choenan despite the fact that
North Korean markings were found by an
independent inquiry panel on the propeller of the
torpedo that sank the corvette with the deaths of
46 South Korean crewmen. Likewise, Vietnam is
becoming alarmed over Chinese claims that the
South China Sea is China's lake. India,
potentially China's biggest rival in the region,
has faced Chinese assertions of claims to the
Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls
South Tibet, and has blocked international
funding for projects in the poverty-stricken territory.

But whether anybody is going to challenge China
at this point is probably not realistic, should
China decide to throw its weight around. And it already is.
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