China’s government branded members of Norway’s Nobel Peace Prize committee as “clowns” for giving this year’s award to jailed writer Liu Xiaobo, and derided the decision as a “farce.”
“Cold War practices” were at play during the selection process, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing today. Such efforts to change China’s political system will fail, Jiang said.
Since the Oslo-based committee’s Oct. 8 decision to award the prize to Liu -- a writer jailed by Chinese authorities on charges of plotting to subvert the ruling Communist Party -- relations between Norway and China have deteriorated. Jiang said last week it will be difficult to repair ties. Chinese officials have yet to tell the Nobel committee whether they’ll allow Liu to attend a Dec. 10 award ceremony in the Norwegian capital.
“We are against anyone making an issue out of Liu Xiaobo and interfering in China’s internal affairs and judicial authority,” Jiang said. “We will not change because of interference by a few clowns; we will not change our path. We will stick to the path of ruling the country by law and its national conditions.”
While the Nobel committee’s decision drew denunciation from the Chinese government, U.S. President Barack Obama called for Liu’s immediate release from prison. Nineteen countries have declined invitations to be represented at the award ceremony “for various reasons,” the committee said today.
China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco won’t attend the ceremony, according to the committee’s website. In 2008, when former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari received the prize, 10 embassies weren’t represented at the ceremony.
The Russian ambassador’s decision to stay away is “not a political decision,” spokesman Vladimir Isupov said in November. Ambassador Vyacheslav Pavlovskiy will be out of the country that day, he said.
Forty-four embassies have indicated they will send a representative to this year’s ceremony, the committee said.
Liu was awarded the prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” the committee said in October. He was taken into custody in December 2008 for his role in organizing Charter 08, an open letter calling for direct elections and the freedom of assembly in China. More than 300 Chinese academics, lawyers and activists signed the letter. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas day last year.
Charter 08 drew inspiration and its name from Charter 77, a 1970s group that included former political dissident and Czech President Vaclav Havel, urging the then Communist regime to respect human rights.