Chinese leaders still mad at Norway

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Politicians in China are in the midst of a major, scheduled leadership transition this fall but there aren’t any signs there will be a change in the country’s official position towards Norway. They still blame the Norwegian government for the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a jailed Chinese dissident.

It seems like a long time since the Chinese Embassy in Oslo celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations with Norway in 2009. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

The Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo two years ago both infuriated and embarrassed Chinese leaders and their court system, which had convicted a man most of the rest of the world viewed as a human rights hero. China immediately froze diplomatic relations with Norway, even though the Norwegian government has nothing to do with the Nobel Committee’s decisions on who wins the Peace Prize.

This year, for example, the committee awarded the prize to the European Union, which two of the Norwegian government’s three coalition parties continually campaign against and which Norwegian voters twice have refused to join. It is unlikely indeed that the government would have encouraged, much less been responsible for a prize to the EU, and one of its members, the Socialist Left party (SV) has actively criticized the committee’s award.

Chinese leaders choose to ignore that, and news bureau AP reported Wednesday that China’s deputy foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, put the responsibility on Norway to mend tense relations between the two countries. He told AP that he hopes Norway will value bilateral relations with China enough to work towards towards repairing them.

Many Norwegians and members of the diplomatic community in Oslo have called the Chinese government’s behaviour towards Norway “childish” but there’s little indication the ongoing diplomatic freeze will melt. China has refused all political dialogue, imposed punitive taxes on Norwegian salmon, made it difficult for various Norwegians to obtain visas to China and even restricted Chinese tourism to Norway.

They still contend that the Nobel Peace Prize honoured a criminal in China, where Liu Xiaobo remains in custody.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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