China warns Nobel winner’s kin against going to Oslo

The Washington Times, 1 December 2010
By Ashish Kumar Sen

Chinese authorities are warning the family and friends of jailed democracy activist Liu Xiaobo against traveling to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on his behalf and have stepped up a campaign to discourage other governments from sending representatives to the investiture ceremony on Dec. 10.

As a result of the expected absence of Mr. Liu’s family from the ceremony, the Nobel Committee is unlikely to hand out the peace prize this year. This would be the first time the committee has chosen not to present the prize since Adolf Hitler barred German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from accepting it in 1936.

Mr. Liu was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” He took part in the pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was a lead author behind “Charter 08,” a manifesto of human rights in China that was published on Dec. 10, 2008.

His wife, Liu Xia, was put under house arrest at the couple’s Beijing apartment soon after the Nobel Prize announcement.

The Lius’ attorneys, friends and human-rights activists say they have had no access to Mrs. Liu in the past few weeks and are worried about her well-being.

Mr. Liu’s brothers, who until recently were allowed to visit him in prison, also have been interrogated and warned by authorities not to attempt to travel outside China.

Yang Jianli, a longtime friend of the Lius who himself spent five years as a political prisoner in China after participating in Tiananmen Square protests, has been entrusted by Mrs. Liu with the task of putting together a list of friends and family members who will attend the Nobel ceremony.

“This has turned out to be an almost impossible task,” said Mr. Yang in a phone interview from Boston, where he heads Initiatives for China, an organization dedicated to advancing peaceful democratic change in China.

Mr. Yang said the Chinese government reacted “hatefully” after the Nobel announcement by cracking down on not only Mrs. Liu, but also many of the couple’s friends and supporters.

“As a result of that pressure, it is very unlikely that any of them will be able to travel outside China to attend the Nobel ceremony,” he said.