Thu, Dec 09, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Beijing leading boycott of Liu’s Nobel ceremony

PROTESTS:Amnesty says Beijing’s ‘arm-twisting’ got some to stay away, but 44 countries will still attend. US lawmakers compare Beijing’s tactics to Hitler’s

THE GUARDIAN AND AFP, LONDON AND WASHINGTON

China and 18 other countries have declined invitations to tomorrow’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, organizers said on Tuesday, as Beijing launched a fresh attack on the decision to honor jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波).

Norway’s Nobel committee dismissed the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claim that the international community did not support the award.

Beijing has urged diplomats in Oslo to stay away from the event, warning of “consequences” if they go. Several of those who have turned down invitations are long-term allies or trading partners, including Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Others include Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Serbia, Vietnam, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Ukraine and Cuba.

Another 44 are attending, while Algeria and Sri Lanka have not replied to their invitations.

“As far as I know, at present, more than 100 countries and organizations have expressed explicit support for China opposing the Nobel peace prize, which fully shows that the international community does not accept the decision of the Nobel committee,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said on Tuesday.

She declined to list those who would not attend, but added: “After the ceremony, you can see that the vast majority of the international community will not attend.”

Geir Lundestad, the committee’s executive secretary, said that was “a very curious way of stating things,” because only the 65 countries with embassies in Norway were invited.

However, “one of the reasons [for states not attending] is undoubtedly China,” he said.

Li Datong (李大同), a Beijing-based writer who recently signed a petition calling for Liu’s release, said it was “absolute rubbish” to say the international community opposed the award.

“The foreign ministry has no shame. It’s a lie, pure and simple, told without the slightest hint of embarrassment,” he said.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s director for the Asia-Pacific region, said: “There are a couple of disappointments, but it’s effectively a club of countries with relatively bad human rights records.”

He said China had persuaded only a small minority to snub the event despite “arm-twisting ... using a combination of political pressure and economic blackmail.”

Jiang described supporters of the award as clowns orchestrating a farce.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers compared China to Nazi Germany on Tuesday in its handling of Liu’s Nobel. Republican Representative Frank Wolf said China was joining Adolf Hitler’s World War II regime — as well as the Soviet Union and Myanmar — by barring the peace laureate from attending tomorrow’s ceremony.

“China should be ashamed and China should be embarrassed to be in the company of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Burma,” Wolf said at a press conference with other lawmakers to call for Liu’s immediate release.

Wolf hailed Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to attend the ceremony, saying her presence would “send a powerful message” that the US stands with Chinese advocates of democratic reforms and broader human rights.

The US House of Representatives was also expected to vote yesterday or to day on a symbolic resolution, crafted by Republican Representative Chris Smith, honoring Liu and urging Beijing to free him.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Beijing must listen to critics of its “warped political system” and demanded Liu and his wife be set free “at once.”

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