x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

China's fury over Nobel touches new high

Beijing condemns US House resolution that praised Liu Xiaobo as 'arrogant'.

BEIJING // China yesterday ramped up its public relations offensive against this year's Nobel Peace Prize by handing out its own alternative accolade and branding as "arrogant" United States lawmakers who voted for a motion in support of Liu Xiaobo, the jailed dissident due to be awarded the prize in absentia today.

As Beijing's outbursts continued, the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee insisted the selection of Mr Liu was not an attempt to force "western" values on China.

At a news conference in Norway yesterday, Thorbjoern Jagland said it would be "very important for China's future to combine economic development with political reforms and support for those in China fighting for basic human rights".

"This prize conveys the understanding that these are universal rights and universal values, they are not western standards," Agence-France Presse reported him as saying.

Mr Liu, 54, was given an 11-year jail sentence for subversion in late 2009 for his involvement in Charter 08, a document published a year earlier calling for democratic reforms in China.

An empty chair at today's award ceremony in Oslo will symbolise the continued detention of Mr Liu, whose wife and associates have also been prevented from travelling to pick up the award on his behalf.

Chinese people living in Norway are expected to protest against the peace prize outside the ceremony today.

Rights groups have claimed that as many as 250 people in China have been placed under house arrest, surveillance or had their movements restricted as Beijing cracks down on dissent ahead of the prizegiving.

Major international broadcasters, including the BBC, yesterday said their websites appeared to have been blocked in China, although the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs spokeswoman Jiang Yu brushed off these suggestions yesterday afternoon, insisting "China's internet is open".

Reiterating China's view that more than 100 countries have expressed their support for Beijing's opposition to the peace prize, Ms Jiang said "the Nobel committee have to admit they're in the minority".

"The Chinese people and the overwhelming majority of countries and peoples in the world oppose what they do," she said at a press briefing in the capital.

She accused the US House of Representatives of interfering in China's internal affairs by voting for a non-binding resolution that supported Mr Liu.

The resolution, passed on Wednesday by a margin of 402 votes to one, congratulated Mr Liu and praised his "promotion of democratic reform in China, and the courage with which he has borne repeated imprisonment".

"The resolution by the US house distorts facts, confuses right and wrong and flagrantly interferes in China's affairs," Ms Yu said.

"We urge the US lawmakers to change their arrogant and unreasonable attitude and show due respect for the Chinese people and Chinese judicial authorities."

The Nobel committee, she said, "had no right to judge issues about China".

At a Beijing hotel yesterday, the first Confucius Peace Prize was awarded to Lien Chan, the honorary chairman of the Taiwan-based party Kuomintang and a former vice president of Taiwan.

The award, orchestrated by the "Confucius Peace Prize Committee", described by its chairman, Tan Liuchang, as a non-governmental organisation, appeared to have been set up as China's riposte to the Nobel Peace Prize, despite statements to the contrary by organisers.

However, the attempt to steal the Nobel committee's thunder was not an unqualified success, with the event appearing to have been arranged at short notice. Mr Lien himself did not appear at the award ceremony, and his office told local media he had not been notified of his selection and had only learned of the award via the media. A young girl was handed Mr Lien's award on his behalf, with organisers describing the youngster as an "angel of peace".

Mr Lien was selected five years on from a trip to China during which he met Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, the first time since the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949 that leaders of the two territories had met. China claims Taiwan as its own.

State-run media yesterday continued their criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize, with the Global Times newspaper saying it was being used by the West "to undermine the benign surroundings for China's future development".

"The West has ... begun obstructing the rise of China, which seems to be the last thing they want to see," an editorial in the paper said, adding "the West has not ceased harassing China".