An empty chair symbolised the absence of Liu Xiaobo at the ceremony in Oslo yesterday where he was named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
As last year's recipient, the US president, Barack Obama, called again for Mr Liu's release, the prize's chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland, placed the award citation and medal in the empty chair and said the 54-year-old dissident's views "will, in the long run, strengthen China".
"Liu has only exercised his civil rights. He has not done anything wrong. He must be released," Mr Jagland said, also comparing Mr Liu with the former South African president Nelson Mandela. Mr Liu was unable to attend as he is serving an 11-year jail term in China for subversion. He received a standing ovation from the audience at Oslo City Hall. It was the first time for nearly three-quarters of a century no one had been present to collect the US$1.4 million (Dh5.14m) prize.
His wife was unable to travel to Oslo as she remained under house arrest in Beijing, while the movements of scores of associates were said to have been restricted in the run-up to the prize-giving.
In a statement, Mr Obama said Mr Liu was "far more deserving of this award than I was". "The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible," he added.
Outside the Norwegian parliament in Oslo, the Norwegian-Chinese Association held a small protest in support of Beijing, while in Hong Kong, about 150 supporters of Mr Liu cheered as they watched a large screen relaying the ceremony live.
Mr Liu was jailed late last year for his part in the release of Charter 08, a manifesto that called for democracy in China. He was a prominent member of the protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and he dedicated his award to the "lost souls" of the government crackdown thought to have killed hundreds.
The UN high commissioner on human rights, Navi Pillay, said on Thursday she hoped China would "come to recognise the positive contribution peaceful advocates like Liu Xiaobo can make to China's development".
China has taken what many have seen as a highly assertive stance in response to the selection of Mr Liu for the award. Other nations were lobbied not to attend the ceremony and Beijing suspended trade talks with Norway. Mr Liu has repeatedly been described as a criminal.
The China's ministry of foreign affairs spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, dismissed the "clowns" behind the prize and branded as "arrogant" US lawmakers who this week passed a resolution in support of Mr Liu. Major broadcasters including the BBC reported their websites were being blocked in China. State-run media yesterday continued their campaign against the prize, with the Global Times newspaper describing today's events as a "farce".
Many nations have come out in support of Beijing's stance of "non-interference" in what officials insisted were China's internal affairs. China's neighbours Japan and South Korea refused to condemn the prize.
On Thursday, China awarded its alternative "Confucius Peace Prize" to a Taiwanese politician, Lien Chan, but this partly backfired when he told media he had not been notified and did not attend the ceremony in Beijing.
At yesterday's ceremony, the Norwegian actress Liv Ullman read out words the dissident wrote in a court statement last year. "There is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme," the text read.