Empty chair as peace prize is handed out
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
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.