The Nobel Peace Prize always draws a crowd and this year was no exception, despite China’s best efforts to ignore the annual event and even spoil it. Hundreds of children defied bitter cold to turn out for a traditional rally, while demonstrators on both sides of the issue let their opinions be known as well. Video report * Photo special
The latter would likely face arrest in their native China but in Oslo, they were free to march and yell both in favour of the award to Chinese intellectual and dissident Liu Xiaobo and against it. A day after human rights activists marched in front of the Chinese Embassy on the outskirts of downtown, and demanded Liu’s release from prison, groups demonstrated outside the Oslo City Hall where the prize ceremony was held and in the heart of the city center.
As black limos plulled up outside City Hall and dignitaries stepped out, various groups staged small, but loud protest across the street, shouting slogans against China’s leadership.
“They are evil, using money and power to get their way,” said Leung Kwok-hung, known as “Long Hair” in his native Hong Kong, where he is a veteran protester and also a member of the legislative council.
Meanwhile, in the downtown plaza known as Spikersuppa, around 50 members of a Norwegian-Chinese association staged a pro-China demonstration, protesting the Nobel Committee’s decicision. Their slogan: “Liu Xiaobo – wrong, wrong, wrong!”
“We don’t think he is the right person to receive this award,” Xiu Hua, who settled in Norway 13 years ago, told Views and News. “Liu Xiaobo is a person who is against his own people, his own culture and even his own country.”
On the other side of City Hall, hundreds of children gathered to show their support for the prize winner. One young girl told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that she was there because “children should also be committed.” She was concerned that Liu was “in prison because he voiced his opinion,” and said it “would be more fair if there was democracy in China.”
At the nearby Nobel Peace Center, which is devoted to the Peace Prize, its history and its winners, crowds also gathered to watch the ceremony on large-screens as NRK broadcast live from the adjacent City Hall.
Events continued throughout the day, set to climax with an annual torchlit parade ending at the Grand Hotel where the Peace Prize winner traditionally stays. This year, no winner would be on hand to greet supporters. The balcony where the winner stands would be symbolically empty, with an image of Liu due to be displayed against the building.