China’s campaign to vilify this year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and sabotage the award ceremony showed signs of backfiring yesterday, as criticism of Beijing rose and the imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) seemed to be turning into a celebrity, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said China would not yield to outside pressure on Liu.
While China has successfully pressured more than a dozen countries not to attend today’s ceremony in Oslo, analysts said its efforts also appeared to be galvanizing the West, reminding democracies of the gulf between them and Beijing.
The high-pressure tactics continued unabated yesterday. Amnesty International said members of Norway’s Chinese community were being pressured by Chinese diplomats to join anti-Nobel protests planned for today and had been threatened with retaliation if they failed to appear. Instead, some pro-democracy protesters showed up yesterday in Oslo in support of Liu.
Liu’s wife, Liu Xia (劉霞), and dozens of friends, colleagues and sympathizers are under house arrest or surveillance to prevent them from attending the ceremony. Attempts to reach them by telephone were met with messages saying their numbers didn’t exist.
Liu Xiaobo, a 54-year-old literary critic, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion handed down last year after he coauthored a bold appeal for human rights and political reform.
Previously almost unknown even within China, he has in recent weeks been transformed into a cause-celebre among global rights activists and a source of curiosity to young, Internet-savvy Chinese.
Several news Web sites, including the BBC’s, were blocked in China yesterday, apparently to blot out coverage of the ceremony.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said she did not know about any sites being blocked.
Jiang also denounced what she said were “double standards” applied to China’s legal system, and criticized the US House of Representatives for calling on China to release the Lius.
“China urges the relevant US lawmakers to stop the wrong words and activity on the Liu Xiaobo issue and to change their arrogant and rude attitude,” Jiang said. “They should show respect to the Chinese people and China’s legal sovereignty.”
“Liu Xiaobo was not convicted because of his remarks,” she said. “Liu wrote and published inflammatory articles on the Internet, organizing and persuading others to sign it, to stir up and overthrow China’s political authority and social system.”
Questioned about China’s pressuring countries not to send representatives to the ceremony, Jiang said attendance would be viewed as a sign of disrespect for China.
“We hope those countries that have received the invitation can tell right from wrong, uphold justice,” Jiang said.
Rghts groups repeated calls for Liu’s release, saying China’s actions violated both domestic laws and Beijing’s international commitments.
China’s “very public tantrum has generated even more critical attention inside and outside China and, ironically, emphasized the significance of Liu Xiaobo’s message of respect for human rights,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement yesterday.
Li Heping (李和平), a civil rights lawyer, said Beijing’s harsh reaction to the prize was an eye-opener for the West.
“In the past, the West didn’t have a consensus on China. But this affair, this Nobel prize, has created one because it is linked with the West’s core values,” he said.