Chinese authorities started warning Norwegian officials against a Nobel Peace Prize to any Chinese dissident several years ago. In the case of Liu Xiaobo, China’s ambassador showed up at Norway’s foreign ministry to protest on October 7, the day before the prize was even announced.
When the Norwegian parliament’s foreign affairs committee visited Beijing as long ago as in 2006, they were subjected to a lengthy reprimand regarding a Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident. At that time, they apparently feared a prize would go to Rebiya Kadeer, the leading Uyighur activist, and they didn’t want that to happen. The Norwegian Members of Parliament listened, but made it clear they had nothing to do with the inner workings of the independent Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Now newspaper VG reports that the Chinese objections to a Peace Prize for its dissidents took on new urgency this year. On Thursday October 7, reports VG, China’s ambassador to Norway appeared at the Foreign Ministry and warned that a Peace Prize for Liu, who they consider a criminal, would damage relations between Norway and China.
The appearance of Ambassador Tang Guoqiang “shocked” ministry staff, and made them suspect the Chinese authorities had inside information, and knew in advance that Liu would win.
Erik Lahnstein, state secretary in the foreign ministry, confirmed the meeting to VG without revealing details of its contents other than that “China put forward a view that was well-known to us from before, and we repeated that the Nobel Committee is completely independent of Norwegian authorities.”
Lahnstein said that on October 7, “we knew nothing about what the Nobel Committee had decided.” The foreign ministry is traditionally told who the winner is just 60 minutes before the public announcement.
“Given that the Chinese many times earlier had told us their opinion (about a prize for Liu), it was rather surprising for us that they wanted to talk to us exactly on that day,” Lahnstein told VG.
Ministry officials viewed the ambassador’s appearance as a last-ditch effort to get the Norwegian authorities to stop the Nobel Committee.
Olympic support for China
Other attempts were also made to get the Nobel Committee to drop any plans for a Peace Prize for Liu. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that Gerhard Heiberg, a Norwegian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), took direct contact with the committee, urging them to select another candidate.
Heiberg, a former business executive with close ties to Chinese officials, not least after the last summer Olympics in Beijing, has earlier said himself that Chinese officials had warned the Nobel Committee against an award for Liu. Now it’s emerged that he reportedly took up their cause.
Heiberg has criticized the Nobel Committee for awarding the Peace Prize to Liu, claiming it will sour relations with China and was like a “punch in the face” to China. He declined to comment on his own reported direct approach to the committee.