Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been named the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Making the announcement in Oslo, Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said Mr Liu was “the foremost symbol of the wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China”. LiMr Liu’s wife and some Western nations have called for his immediate release.
China said the award was a violation of Nobel principles and could damage relations with Norway. Mr Jagland admitted he knew the choice would be controversial. He told local television before the announcement: “You’ll understand when you hear the name.”
China’s new status in the world “must entail increased responsibility”. “China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights.” Mr Jagland said that, in practice, freedoms enshrined in China’s constitution had “proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens”. Mr Jagland said the choice of Mr Liu had become clear early in the selection process.
Mr Liu, 54, who was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, was jailed for 11 years on Christmas Day last year for drafting Charter 08, which called for multiparty democracy and respect for human rights in China. The Nobel Foundation citation read: “Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.”
Ending the citation, Mr Jagland said: “The campaign to establish universal human rights in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. “Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.” Beijing quickly condemned the award, saying it could damage China-Norway relations.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said: “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. It’s a complete violation of the principles of the prize and an insult to the Peace Prize itself for the Nobel committee to award the prize to such a person.” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said it would be “negative for China’s reputation in the world” if it chose to punish Norway over the award.
Mr Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, said she was “so excited” by the award. She told AFP news agency: “I want to thank everyone for supporting Liu Xiaobo. I strongly ask that the Chinese government release Liu.” Mrs Liu said police had informed her they would take her to Mr Liu’s prison in the north-eastern province of Liaoning on Saturday so she could give him the news.
The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5m; £944,000) and will be awarded in Oslo on 10 December. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said China should free Mr Liu so he could attend the ceremony. France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also welcomed the award and called on China to release Mr Liu.
Rights group Amnesty International said Mr Liu was a “worthy winner”. But Catherine Baber, deputy Asia-Pacific director, said: “This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails.”