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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Nobel peace prize a slap in the face for China

October 13, 2010

Second time China faces a fallout from an unwelcome peace prize.
Swedish Wire
October 8, 2010

BEIJING (AFP) -- Despite a warning to the
Nobel  committee and months of behind-the-scenes
pressure, China failed to avert a harsh slap in
the face -- the awarding of the Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Beijing predictably slammed the win on Friday for
the 54-year-old Liu -- the co-author of a bold
manifesto calling for political reform who was
jailed in December for 11 years for subversion, a
sentence that won global condemnation.

China warned Norway that ties would suffer over
the Nobel committee's decision, but experts
called it a victory for human rights and said it
should force communist-ruled China to reconsider its policies.

"If China wants to play an important role on the
world stage, it must submit itself to universal
values and respect freedom of expression,"
Jean-Philippe Beja, a China expert at the
Institute of Political Studies in Paris, told AFP.

Liu's win marked the second time that China has
faced the fallout from an unwelcome peace prize.

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual
leader seen by Beijing as a "splittist" bent on
independence for his Himalayan homeland, was given the honour in 1989.

China mounted a vehement protest when the
Buddhist monk was honoured, but Beja said times were different.

"China was more isolated then, it came on the
heels of the Tiananmen crackdown and the
imposition of sanctions against Beijing -- China
had nothing to lose, and neither did the West," Beja said.

"Now, the situation on the international scene is
totally different -- since the global economic
crisis, the West has courted China," he added.

Bolstered by its growing global clout, Beijing
pulled no punches in trying to head off the Nobel committee.

Late last month, the director of the Nobel
Institute, Geir Lundestad, told AFP that Chinese
Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying had issued a
warning against awarding the prize to Liu in
June, saying it would be an "unfriendly gesture".

Fu herself told reporters that honouring Liu
would clash with the wishes of prizes founder
Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist -- using
language very similar to that used by Beijing in
its reaction to Liu's win on Friday.

China's opposition "did not prevent the Nobel
committee to give the prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989," Lundestad said.

The pressure did not work this time either.

By giving the peace prize to a Chinese dissident,
the committee wanted to "protect itself from any
accusation that it had ceded to the pressure,"
said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"The pressure applied is very strong," Bequelin
told AFP, adding that Beijing has in recent years
"developed an enormous lobbying operation" to
ensure that dissident Chinese nationals do not win the peace prize.

Calling Liu's win a "victory for human rights
around the world", Bequelin said the prize also
marked "the end of the myth under which the
Chinese government is the only one that can speak for the Chinese people".

While Beijing will see the awarding of the peace
prize to someone they consider a "criminal" to be
an affront, they will be obliged to deal with the fallout, experts said.

"A certain number of people within the system
think the sentence handed down to Liu was too
heavy. We can assume those people will have a
stronger hand to play in the current debate"
going on in the corridors of power, Beja said.

"In the short term, that could make conditions
worse" for Liu in prison, but later on, "they
will have to do something -- they can't be
perceived as the junta in Myanmar is viewed,"
Beja said, adding that Liu could ultimately be released for "health reasons".
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