Six countries have turned down invitations to attend this year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, after China sent letters to local embassies in Oslo asking them to ignore the festivities. China, whose authorities are furious that the winner is one of their leading dissidents, is among the six staying away.
China sent letters to embassies in Oslo earlier this month that some ambassadors viewed as a threat or, at the very least, an effort to boycott the annual Nobel ceremony. The letter suggested there may be “consequences” for countries whose ambassadors attended a ceremony honoring a man the Chinese have jailed following his efforts to promote human rights and freedom of expression. The Chinese view Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo as a criminal.
China’s foreign ministry has also stated that any country supporting the Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo must take responsibility for any consequences their support might have. The prize, meanwhile, likely won’t be handed out at the ceremony because neither Liu nor members of his family are being allowed by Chinese authorities to attend.
Russia staying away
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that five countries have gone along with China’s request so far, several of them countries with questionable human rights records themselves. Those declining the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s invitation to the ceremony include Cuba, Iraq, Russia, Morocco and Kazakhstan. Iran has indicated earlier that its ambassador won’t be coming either. Morocco, meanwhile, was embroiled in a diplomatic conflict with Norway recently, tied to a bitter custody dispute over the children of a former Moroccan Olympic athlete and his Norwegian ex-wife.
The Nobel Institute’s preliminary count of diplomatic guests shows that 36 ambassadors in Oslo have accepted the invitation to the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo City Hall on December 10. Another 16 have yet to respond.
Ambassadors from India, Pakistan and Indonesia are among those waiting for a decision from authorities back home on whether they attend, reports NRK. They find themselves in a dilemma, not wanting to offend either the Norwegian Nobel Committee in their host country or China.
Japan’s ambassador, who just arrived in Oslo his fall, will attend after Japan’s foreign minister called the Nobel Peace Prize “an important prize.” South Korean officials reportedly have hesitated amidst debate in South Korea because China is viewed as an important ally. One of South Korea’s own leading proponents of democracy, Kim Dae-jung, won the prize just 10 years ago and a newspaper commentator concluded that South Korea’s ambassador should attend the Nobel ceremony because “anything else would reflect an unacceptable lack of integrity.”
All the ambassadors from countries that are members of the European Union will attend, reports NRK, as will US Ambassador Barry White. US President Barack Obama, who won the prize last year, has expressed strong support for the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu.