China still angry over Liu’s Nobel

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As critics bash this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Chinese authorities seem to be carrying on their own crusade against the prize that was awarded in Oslo to one of their leading dissidents two years ago, Liu Xiaobo. They continue to blame the Norwegian government for their loss of face, and issued another snub this week for Norway’s reportedly “bad behaviour.”

Chinese authorities refused to allow jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo to travel to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize, so his image was portrayed on the wall the Grand Hotel where he otherwise would have been guest of honour. Liu remains in prison, with his wife also under house arrest in China. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The snub came when China’s foreign ministry revealed new visa reform that will allow travelers from 45 countries around the world to make a 72-hour stopover in Beijing without applying for a visa in advance. All the 27 members of the European Union plus Iceland and Switzerland are included in the visa waiver program, along with Russia, the US, Japan and most countries in Central and South America.

Pointedly left off the list is Norway, with no direct explanation as to why. Norway would appear to have qualified under criteria presented that was used for other countries, but a Chinese government spokesperson would only say, according to reports from Beijing, that some countries failed to qualify either because they have a population or government of “low quality” or which has exhibited “bad behaviour.”

Hard line continues
It was enough to leave those following the strained relations between Norway and China either shaking their heads in exasperation or even smiling at China’a latest attempt to “punish” Norway. Norwegian Foreign Ministry officials were putting the best possible spin on the development, though, claiming that they didn’t view the failure to include Norway in such otherwise sweeping visa liberalization as another setback.

“We haven’t received a formal report on this from the Chinese authorities and only know what’s happened through the media,” a spokesperson told newspaper Aftenposten. “Therefore we don’t look at this as a setback.”

While some called the visa exclusion “petty,” others claimed it shows that China’s new government leaders are continuing their predecessors’ hard line against Norway since the Peace Prize was awarded to Liu in 2010. In the last two years, China has put all relations with top Norwegian politicians on ice, stopped doing business with some Norwegian companies, reduced salmon imports and denied visas to a long list of Norwegian scholars, journalists, business people and politicians, including former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.

No apology expected
China has demanded an apology for the Peace Prize to Liu, something the Norwegian government is unable to give since it’s not involved in decisions regarding Peace Prize winners. Norway’s government expressed support for the prize at the time, as is the custom when winners are announced in October, and that’s what’s believed to also have offended the Chinese.

Norwegian business interests are pressuring their government to make another attempt at mending relations with China. Government officials can’t and won’t apologize for the prize, so the stalemate continues, with Norwegians now among the only ones from a modern, industrialized nation who still must line up for a visa at the local Chinese embassy.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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