China’s state media yesterday lashed out at the Nobel Peace Prize committee for the “political farce” of recognizing Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) after an empty chair stood in for the jailed dissident in Oslo.
Beijing said Friday’s ceremony in the Norwegian capital, where the prize was presented in absentia to the imprisoned democracy activist, was “political theater” and a product of a “Cold War mentality.”
“Honoring someone the government dislikes may serve to embarrass China in this year’s case, but that is almost all,” the China Daily, an English-language government mouthpiece said in an editorial yesterday. “Embarrassing as it may be, the fanfare in Oslo offers a rare opportunity to update and enrich the diplomatic outlook of ordinary Chinese. Not everyone in the world wants China’s social and political stability to continue.”
Liu, a writer who has advocated political reform in China for more than two decades, was jailed in December last year for 11 years on subversion charges after co--authoring Charter 08, a bold petition calling for change.
Beijing has reacted with fury to the award, describing the Norwegian Nobel Committee as “clowns” and threatening that countries would face unspecified “consequences” if they did not stay away from the ceremony.
It also barred the jailed dissident or a representative from traveling to Oslo to receive the award.
The China Daily editorial played down the prize’s significance, saying the award was “hardly worth the fuss and hoopla.”
“Quite a few Westerners cherish the naive hope that the prize will ‘enlighten the Chinese on human rights’ and instigate the changes they wish to see in the country,” the editorial said. “They have been too preoccupied with their own fantasies to realize what is happening in the real world.”
In a commentary yesterday, the Xinhua news agency cited a mid-October poll by the Chinese -Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper that indicated 77.1 percent of respondents did not know who had won the peace prize.
It did not mention, however, that the poll — whose questions did not name Liu — was conducted after a week-long state media blackout on reporting about the award.
“The whole event has become an out-and-out political farce,” the Xinhua commentary said.
“It’s unimaginable that such a farce, the like of which is more commonly seen in cults, is being staged on the civilized continent of Europe,” the Global Times said in an earlier commentary.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜), speaking as the ceremony to award this year’s Peace Prize to Liu was taking place in Oslo, said the event “cannot represent the overall majority of the people of the world.”
She reiterated Beijing’s insistence that the award to Liu was an attempt to foment unrest in China and bring political instability to the world’s most populous nation.
“This kind of political theater will never shake the determination and the confidence of the people of China to uphold the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” she said.
Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland placed this year’s peace prize on an empty chair on Friday as last year’s laureate, US President Barack Obama, led calls for Liu to be set free.
It was only the second time in the history of the prize that no one had been at the ceremony to collect the award.