Oslo: Jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for decades of non-violent struggle for human rights, an award that Beijing had anticipated and bitterly criticised.
The prize puts China’s human rights record in the spotlight at a time when it is starting to play a bigger role on the global stage as a result of its growing economic might.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Liu for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.
“The ... Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace,” it said.
Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said China, the world’s second biggest economy, should expect to be under greater scrutiny as it becomes more powerful, just as the United States was after World War II.
“We have to speak when others cannot speak,” Jagland told reporters. “As China is rising, we should have the right to criticise ... We want to advance those forces that want China to become more democratic.”
Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao did not take questions from journalists at a news conference in Turkey after the award was announced.
Earlier this year, deputy foreign minister Fu Ying had warned the head of the Nobel Institute against granting the prize to Liu, saying it would damage ties between China and Norway as they negotiate a bilateral trade deal.
China also strongly criticised Norway after the 1989 prize went to Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The last dissident to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Iranian lawyer and human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi, in 2003.
Jailed For Subversion
Liu was jailed for 11 years last December for subversion of state power, a year after being arrested as lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto issued by Chinese intellectuals and activists calling for free speech and multi-party elections.
The former literature professor rose to prominence as a strike leader during protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989.
He was later jailed for 20 months and then spent three years in a “labour re-education” camp during the 1990s, as well as months under virtual house arrest.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said last month that Liu’s actions were “diametrically opposed to the aims of the Nobel Prize”.
Norway says the Nobel committee, picked by parliament and comprising former politicians, is fully independent.
The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5 million) and will be awarded in Oslo on 10 December. It was not immediately known who would collect the prize if Liu could not do so.