China has snubbed Norway in its list of countries that would no longer require a visa for a 72-hour stopover in Beijing because it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, reports South China Morning Post.
Liu Xiaobo, pictured with his wife Liu Xia. (Photo: South China Morning Post)
From next year, citizens from the 45 listed countries who land in Beijing can spend three days in the city without having to apply for a visa.
Chinese authorities said the countries were listed in accordance with the numbers of inbound overnight visitors in Beijing from 2009 to 2011.
But the Financial Times interviewed one government official who said that certain countries were omitted because their citizens or government are “of low quality” or “badly behaved”.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is nominated by the Norwegian Parliament although it is independent.
China’s move caught the Norwegians by surprise. “We are keen to re-establish relations but all countries are free to ease restrictions on visa-free travel on their own accord,” said a foreign ministry spokesperson.
Activist Liu was named a Nobel Peace laureate in 2010. He is four years into an 11-year prison term for subversion for authoring and disseminating a plan for making China democratic, Charter 08. The Nobel committee cited that proposal and his two decades of non-violent struggle for civil rights in awarding him the peace prize.
Relations between China and Norway have been frosty since the award, with cooled diplomatic relations and Beijing restrictions on imported Norwegian salmon. Still, Norweigian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg maintained in November that contacts between Oslo and Beijing had never stopped.
The latest Chinese punishment for Norway comes less than a month after Xi Jinping replaced Hu Jintao as general secretary of the Communist Party of China, a position he is expected to hold for the next decade, according to the Financial Times.