UPDATED: Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre called Liu Xiaobo a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize announced in Oslo on Friday, but said he was prepared for negative reaction from Chinese authorities.
“I don’t want to play this up, but it’s no secret that China has said that such a prize would have negative consequences,” Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday that it was awarding the Peace Prize to Liu, to honor his years of non-violent efforts to urge political reform in China.
Støre (PicApp photo at right) said the Norwegian government “has all along” said that there is a clear division between the independent Norwegian Nobel Committee and the Norwegian government. He said it seems difficult for the Chinese authorities to understand such a division and independence.
Støre added that the Norwegian government won’t make any excuses for the work the Nobel Committee has done or its decision, “and we must protect its integrity.”
He stressed that Norway will maintain its long-term policies towards China and wants to continue its relations with China in a normal manner. China, he said, must account for its own reaction.
“My attitude is that there is no foundation to direct any measures against Norway as a country, as that would only further damage China’s reputation,” Støre said. “They must find a way to tolerate criticism that comes from outside China.”
There was no immediate reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize announcement from the Chinese Embassy in Oslo but officials in Beijing claimed the prize violated the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will. Reports from China indicated that there was no immediate local reporting of the announcement that Liu Xiaobo had won the prize, that broadcasts of the announcement on CNN and the BBC were censored and that reporters were chased away from the home of Liu’s wife in Beijing, while she was prevented from talking to them. She later was allowed to make a statement, and said she was “so happy.”
When news of the Peace Prize to Liu eventually does emerge in China, it may spark fury, according to the secretary general of Amnesty International in Norway, Jan Peder Egenæs. Both he and Professor Harald Bøckman at the University of Oslo predicted that millions of Chinese will view this as a loss of face, and as an attempt to meddle in China’s internal affairs.