Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia Friday in Oslo, Norway. The prize was laid in an empty chair following the ceremony. It would normally be presented to either the recipient or a close relative, as has been the case with other laureates who were being held in detention at the time, such as Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archive], who was the winner in 1991. Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison term [JURIST report], and Chinese authorities did not allow Liu's family to attend the ceremony. Presenting the award, Nobel committee chairman Torbjorn Jagland explained [statement] that Liu was chosen because of his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." Jagland continued:
There are many dissidents in China, and their opinions differ on many points. The severe punishment imposed on Liu made him more than a central spokesman for human rights. Practically overnight, he became the very symbol, both in China and internationally, of the struggle for such rights in China. ... China's own constitution upholds fundamental human rights. Article 35 of the country's constitution thus lays down that "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration." Article 41 begins by stating that citizens "have the right to criticise and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary." Liu has exercised his civil rights. He has done nothing wrong. He must therefore be released.Also on Friday, Xinhua [media website], the official press agency of China, published articles criticizing the award and the Nobel committee, one of which leveled the criticism [Xinhua report] that "the 2009 and 2010 peace prize winners reflect the partisanship of the Nobel Committeeit cheers politicians from the West and opposes leaders from the East. It praises the United States and blames China." and "does not consider the difference in situations in different countries and different parts of the world" when choosing award recipients. Another commentator cited Liu's status as a "convicted criminal" [Xinhua report], and the bias of the Nobel committee as reasons to disregard the award.
The Nobel committee announced Xiaobo as the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize [JURIST report] in October. Liu has been one of China's most prominent dissidents. He spent two years in prison following the Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder] uprising, has long challenged China's one-party rule and co-authored Charter 08 [text], a petition calling for political reforms in the country. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for inciting subversion. US President Barack Obama, the 2009 award recipient, praised the Nobel Committee's decision and called on China to release Liu. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website, in Chinese] spokesperson Jiang Yu denounced the decision [press release, in Chinese], calling it "contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Prize." Chinese authorities have censored the announcement, blocking internet searches and international broadcasts about it and even turning off phones of people who text messaged the news.