Empty chair as peace prize is handed out

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

OSLO: With his No­bel Peace Prize diploma placed in his empty chair, im­pris­oned Chi­nese dis­si­dent Liu Xiaobo was given a stand­ing ova­tion at the award cer­e­mony last night, as dig­ni­taries de­manded his re­lease.

It was the first time in 74 years the pres­ti­gious $1.4 mil­lion (R9.6m) award was not handed over. This was be­cause Liu is serv­ing an 11-year sen­tence in China on sub­ver­sion charges for urg­ing sweep­ing changes to Bei­jing’s one-party com­mu­nist po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

China was in­fu­ri­ated when the 54-year-old lit­er­ary critic won, de­scrib­ing the award as an at­tack on its po­lit­i­cal and le­gal sys­tem.

Au­thor­i­ties have placed Liu’s sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing his wife Liu Xia un­der house ar­rest to pre­vent any­one from pick­ing up his prize.

In China, CNN and BBC TV were blocked when the Oslo cer­e­mony took place. Se­cu­rity out­side Liu’s Bei­jing flat was heavy and sev­eral dozen jour­nal­ists were herded by the po­lice to a cor­doned-off area.

In his speech, Nor­we­gian No­bel Com­mit­tee Chair­man Thor­b­jorn Jagland called for Liu’s re­lease, re­ceiv­ing an un­usual stand­ing ova­tion.

“He has not done any­thing wrong. He must be re­leased,” Jagland said.

He placed Liu’s No­bel diploma on the empty chair mark­ing Liu’s ab­sence.

Nor­we­gian ac­tress Liv Ull­man read the last state­ment Liu made, “I Have No En­e­mies”, be­fore he was jailed.

He de­liv­ered the state­ment in a Chi­nese court last year .

The Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry de­scribed the award as a “po­lit­i­cal farce”.

It said it re­flected a Cold War men­tal­ity and in­fringed upon China’s ju­di­cial sovereignty. – Sapa-AP

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

IN AB­SEN­TIA: Chair­man of the Nor­we­gian No­bel Com­mit­tee, Thor­b­jorn Jagland, looks down at the No­bel cer­tifi­cate and medal on the empty chair where this year's No­bel Peace Prize win­ner, jailed Chi­nese dis­si­dent Liu Xiaobo, would have sat, as a por­trait of Liu is seen in the back­ground, dur­ing the cer­e­mony in Oslo yes­ter­day.

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