While China is trying to pressure other countries into boycotting this year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Norway’s King Harald V has made it clear he’ll be attending all the main, annual events tied to the prize, even more than normal.
A palace spokesman told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend that the Norwegian monarch will be attending not only the awards ceremony in Oslo City Hall on December, but also the awards banquet in the evening and the Nobel Concert on December 11. The concert is normally attended by the crown prince and crown princess, but they’re off traveling for two months on an extended family holiday, so King Harald and Queen Sonja will attend in their absence.
Chinese authorities have sent letters to other countries’ embassies in Oslo in recent weeks urging them not to attend the Peace Prize ceremony, which traditionally is one of the most coveted invitations of the year. The letters indicate that there will be “consequences” for those who choose to attend.
The letters signal just how angry and embarrassed the Chinese are that the prize was awarded to one of their own dissidents and human rights activists, Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison term after demanding democratic reforms. The Chinese government calls Liu a “criminal,” and has accused the Norwegian Nobel Committee and Norway itself of failing to respect China’s legal system.
(PICAPP PHOTO: A protester holds up a sign featuring a portrait of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and a Nobel Prize medal during a demonstration outside the China liaison office in Hong Kong earlier this autumn. The sign demands that Liu be released from prison.)
China in turn has been accused by many countries and human rights activists around the world of bullying, as it flexes its newly won economic muscle in the process. Some small countries fear that China will suspend business deals and economic cooperation if they attend the Nobel ceremonies.
Newspaper Aftenposten has quoted persons who long have done business with China that the Chinese would be carefully monitoring which countries attend the prize ceremony against their wishes, and even which artists perform at the Nobel Concert. All can expect some form of retaliation from China, they believe.
The Chinese Embassy in Oslo hasn’t responded to questions on the issue, but it’s believed China was hoping that King Harald would also stay away from some events. That won’t happen, but Nobel Committee officials confirm that several local embassies still hadn’t responded to their invitations even though the deadline was today (Monday). Some countries reportedly have asked for an extension, indicating that they were waiting for a decision from their governments at home as to whether they should attend or go along with China’s efforts to sabotage the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.
“There’s clearly a process going on here,” the secretary to the Nobel Committee, Geir Lundestad, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Many embassies likely are in an extremely uncomfortable position, not wanting to offend either China or their hosts in Norway. Lundestad hoped to have an overview over which countries would attend and which may stay away by Thursday.
Norwegian actress and director Liv Ullmann, meanwhile, isn’t letting the Chinese keep her away from the Nobel Prize ceremony. Not only will she attend, but she has agreed to read aloud from some of Liu’s essays, since Liu himself isn’t being allowed to attend the ceremony and receive his prize in person.