Nobel Prize Sparks Norway-China Row

Norway faces a diplomatic backlash from China after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to jailed democracy activist Liu Xiaobo. The greater fallout may be within China itself.

Norway has been hit with the first wave of diplomatic backlash after awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.

China called off two high-level meetings in Beijing with Norway’s fisheries minister this week. In addition, cancellations have been pouring in for four other scheduled Sino-Norwegian meetings.

But the award could actually provide a bigger backlash for China at home because it has generated a “game-changing” dynamic for reform, according to Sharon Hom, executive director for Human Rights in China, an international nongovernmental organization based in Hong Kong and New York.

Why China sees Norway as responsible for Nobel

China is upset that the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave the award to Mr. Liu, who was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” He was a leading author behind Charter 08, a political manifesto that calls for increased rule of law, greater respect for human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee, by giving the Peace Prize to a convicted person in China, shows no respect for the judicial system of China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesma Ma Zhaoxu said this week, warning of damaged China-Norway relations.

Norway has tried to ease the situation by highlighting that the Norwegian Nobel Committee is independent of the Norwegian government. “We cannot [accept] that an independent committee’s decision shall lead to bilateral relations between Norway and China being affected,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a meeting today with China’s ambassador.

But despite Norway’s effort to make such distinctions, China has retaliated with a string of rebuffs.

“It really reflects the Chinese government’s own sense that authorities should be able to tell anybody, including independent bodies, what to do,” Ms. Hom told The Christian Science Monitor.

A delegation from China’s high court, scheduled to meet its Norwegian counterpart this week, canceled because of “other urgent obligations” and a Chinese military delegation called off its meeting in Oslo with Norway’s justice ministry at the last minute, according to Ragnhild Imerslund, assistant director general of Norway’s foreign ministry.

In addition, many participants from a group representing Chinese researchers, experts, and journalists slated to study the Norwegian welfare state model have canceled next week’s visit to Oslo. An Asian study tour by 17 Norwegian state secretaries for next week has been postponed because key meetings in Beijing were also canceled.

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