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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?"

China Urges Europeans to Snub Nobel Ceremony

November 8, 2010

MICHAEL WINES
The New York Times
November 4, 2010

BEIJING -- China is pressing European governments
to boycott the ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace
Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo,
warning that the award interferes in China’s
internal affairs and that Mr. Liu is a criminal,
Western diplomats said on Thursday.

A demonstration in support of Liu Xiaobo on
Wednesday outside the Hong Kong Legislative
Council as pro-democracy lawmakers challenged
Beijing’s condemnation of the Nobel Peace Prize
winner and pushed for a resolution calling for his release.

Beijing also urged governments not to issue the
statements of support and congratulation that are
customary for Nobel laureates, they said.

The unusual request was delivered to European
embassies in Oslo, the site of the award ceremony
in December, in a written démarche, or diplomatic
note, the highest level of communication between
diplomatic outposts. How many embassies received the note was unclear.

Mr. Liu, a Beijing author and intellectual, was
convicted of subversion and sentenced to 11 years
in prison last year for his role in writing
Charter 08, an Internet manifesto that calls for
democratic reforms and an end to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

The police detained him shortly before the
document was issued in December 2008, and he has
remained in custody since. His wife, Liu Xia, is
under constant guard in the couple’s Beijing apartment.

Whether by Beijing’s design or otherwise, the
Nobel award is emerging as an early test of
China’s newfound diplomatic clout, the product of
its emergence as a global economic power.

China is investing heavily in Europe, buying debt
and assets depressed by the global financial
crisis and becoming a significant partner for
hard-hit nations like Spain and Greece. Britain
is sending its largest-ever ministerial
delegation, including Prime Minister David
Cameron, to Beijing next week in search of
business deals. President Hu Jintao of China
visited France on Thursday, apparently to
purchase 110 Airbus passenger jets for Chinese airlines.

Since the October announcement of the Nobel
award, the United States and other governments
have urged China to free Mr. Liu, while some
governments, including some Western democracies,
have pointedly limited their statements to
congratulations without calling for his release.

Chinese officials have attacked the Nobel award
committee, insisting that the award demeans the
peace prize. China’s state-controlled media have
published polls purporting to reflect ordinary
Chinese citizens’ unhappiness with the award, and
newspapers have defended China’s human rights
record while assailing those of the United States and other nations.

Beijing also warned Norway before the prize was
announced that naming Mr. Liu would strain
diplomatic relations. In recent days, Chinese
officials have also called foreign diplomats to
meetings to deliver warnings similar to those in
the diplomatic note, The Associated Press reported.

In an interview on Thursday, one European
diplomat in Beijing called the demands
undiplomatic, but not particularly surprising.

"You could expect it, because if you look at
their reaction, it’s been really unreasonable,"
said the diplomat, who refused to be named,
citing diplomatic protocol. "It’s not something
that looks very good, but it’s something that it seems they cannot understand."

Since the award was announced, Chinese
authorities have intensified a crackdown on
political and human rights activists, detaining
some and placing others under tight surveillance.
Mr. Liu’s wife publicly invited scores of Chinese
activists and celebrities to attend the Oslo
ceremony, but it is widely expected that the
government will bar them and her from leaving the country.

Yu Jie, a Beijing writer and one of Liu Xiaobo’s
close friends, said in an interview five days ago
that domestic security officers were preventing
him and his wife from leaving their apartment. He
said that the couple’s cellphone service had been
halted and that three video cameras had been
installed on the building opposite their apartment.

Although security officers refuse to explain
their mission, Mr. Yu said that he believed "they
are afraid we are going to Oslo for the award ceremony."

"The situation is getting really bad," he said.

Pu Zhiqiang, a human-rights lawyer, said he had
been under surveillance since Mr. Liu’s award was
announced. "They know they don’t have any legal
grounds for this," he said. "But they fear nothing."

Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for the New
York-based organization Human Rights Watch, said
the government was nervous about figures like Mr.
Pu and Mr. Yu because they "are people who can
spread the news within Chinese society."

"The police know these people are not going to
cause the collapse of the Communist Party," Mr.
Bequelin said, "but this is all about information
control. These are activists who sense that this
is a historic moment and want to make the most of it."

Even some obscure people appear to have been
swept up in the crackdown. News agencies reported
that Guo Xianliang, an engineer, disappeared
while on a business trip in Guangzhou after
handing out fliers about the peace prize. Mr. Guo
is not a well-known activist, the reports said,
but may have provoked the ire of authorities by
calling attention to Mr. Liu’s imprisonment.

Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.

Correction: November 4, 2010

An earlier version of this article incorrectly
stated the date of the awards ceremony for the
Nobel Peace Prize. The ceremony will take place on Dec. 10, not next week.
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