Friday, 19 November 2010

Carry on Nobel

The Chinese government is continuing its concerted but surely counter-productive campaign to cancel the Nobel Peace prize ceremony in honour of jailed Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, which is due to take place in Oslo on December 10th.

The Independent's front-page splash on 'The Peace Prize War' reports that:

The Chinese government has also stepped up its diplomatic efforts to prevent the ceremony going ahead. Yesterday, in a highly unusual move, five countries declared they would not be sending ambassadors to the ceremony. Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq are all joining with China in an unprecedented boycott.

(The Russian Embassy's official line is that their non-participation is a coincidence: their Ambassador will not be in Oslo on the night: ""It is not politically motivated and we do not feel we are pressured by China").

All of the EU countries have said they will attend, as they always do, despite the unusually ferocious Chinese diplomatic campaign for a boycott (which we discussed on Next Left last week).

Despite the decision of that motley group of five, and the threat of "consequences" to any nation which attends, the Chinese diplomatic push has clearly failed to make the ceremony unviable.

But China may have more luck through stepping up internal repression. The Independent report claims that the ceremony is still in doubt, primarily because China has placed Liu's wife under house arrest, banned his brother from travelling along, it is reported, with over 100 human rights activists for fear that one of them would collect the prize on behalf of Liu Xiaobo.

It seems that this may prove a more successful impediment, given Nobel rules.

Yet that would be an extremely double-edged diplomatic triumph, especially for those rightly advocating China's peaceful rise as a increasingly important player in the multilateral world order. As Amy Davidson of the New Yorker reports in a fascinating blog, a successful cancellation would be the first time the prize had not been presented since 1936 - when German journalist Carl von Ossietzky was interned in a Nazi concentration camp.

However the issue of who to present the award to and when can be resolved, the spirit of the Nobel prize surely demands that a ceremony in Mr Liu's honour must surely go ahead on December 10th.

It is surely time too for human rights groups around the world to announce some form of virtual solidarity celebration on that date in honour of China's first ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.

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