Conflict lingers over last year’s prize

A new Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in Oslo on Friday but Norway is still feeling the ill effects of last year’s prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Ongoing conflict between Norway and China over the prize continues to raise questions about the composition of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Last year’s prize so angered Chinese authorities that newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported that the only Norwegian top Chinese politicians will talk to now is Gerhard Heiberg, retired businessman and longtime member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He thinks it’s time the source of the conflict was addressed, writes News in English

Heiberg, age 72, has remained in China’s good graces, likely because of his powerful position on the IOC and because Heiberg criticized the Nobel Committee’s decision to award last year’s Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo. Heiberg, according to newspaper Aftenposten, had even warned the staunchly independent Nobel committee against awarding the prize to Liu.

In the year since, relations between China and Norway have gone into a deep freeze. China has cancelled high-level meetings and political talks, indefinitely suspended negotiations on a free-trade treaty and often refused to issue visas to visiting Norwegians. The Norwegian government, meanwhile, has refused to apologize in any way for the Peace Prize on the grounds the government has nothing to do with the prize selection process. That, it points out, is up to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee at last year’s ceremony honoring Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose empty chair illustrated how Chinese authorities prevented him from accepting his Nobel Peace Prize. Liu remains in prison in China.

Since the committee is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, though, the Chinese refuse to distinguish Nobel committee policy from government policy. That’s given rise to the renewed debate over how the parliament appoints the committee, and Heiberg agrees that’s a source of the conflict with China.

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