Nobel laureate denied visits; doubts who can collect award

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BEIJING/OSLO - China’s angry response to the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed activist Liu Xiaobo raised doubts Wednesday if anyone will be able to leave China to collect the award on his behalf in Oslo.

In an open letter two weeks ago, Liu’s wife Liu Xia invited a group of 140 leading dissidents, lawyers and rights activists to attend the Dec 10 ceremony in Oslo.

But possible attendees, such as prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping, have run into difficulties. Mo said border police Tuesday had prevented him from boarding a flight from Beijing to London.

Mo told DPA that the police said his journey could “endanger state security” after they stopped him and fellow lawyer He Weifang as they were en route to a conference on Chinese legal issues in London.

In Oslo, Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the committee was aware Liu’s supporters were under pressure and that it might be difficult to find someone who could collect the prize.

“There is a possibility the diploma, medal and prize check will not be handed over to anyone at the ceremony,” Lundestad told the online edition of daily VG, adding there was still a month left before the award ceremony.

Liu Xiaobo, a writer and one of China’s leading dissidents, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December for his part in writing the Charter ‘08 for democratic reform.

The Nobel Committee has had indirect contact with Liu Xia concerning arrangements for the ceremony. The Nobel laureate’s own writings could be used during the ceremony.

It is 75 years ago since a Nobel Peace laureate was unable to send a designated representative to the award ceremony as was the case when German peace activist Carl von Ossietzky won the award.

Laureates unable to collect their awards in person include Russia’s Andrei Sakharov in 1975, Poland’s Lech Walesa in 1983, and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar in 1991.

Earlier, a Hong Kong-based rights group said prison authorities have apparently impeded attempts by relatives to visit Liu.

Liu’s two brothers and a brother of his wife, Liu Xia, last month requested a visit to the prison in northeastern city of Jinzhou for Wednesday but they had not heard from the prison, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in statement posted on its website.

Mobile phone numbers provided by prison authorities were all out of service and the relatives feared they would not be allowed to meet Liu before the award ceremony, the statement said.

When police allowed Liu Xia to visit her husband Oct 10, two days after the announcement of the prize, he told her he planned to write a statement before the award ceremony, it said.

But the relatives said they believed prison officials may be trying to block Liu Xiaobo from issuing any statement via third parties.

The Information Centre quoted one of Liu Xiaobo’s brothers, Liu Xiaoxuan, as saying his employer had repeatedly urged him not to travel to Oslo for the award ceremony.

Shang Baojun, one of the two main lawyers representing Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, told DPA Wednesday that he last had contact with Liu Xia about two weeks ago via her brother, Liu Hui.

“I cannot contact her directly,” Shang said, adding that Liu Hui had told him Liu Xia was in “good condition” despite police keeping her under house arrest at her Beijing apartment.

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