Chinese authorities, who called Nobel Peace prizewinner Liu Xiaobo a criminal shortly after his award Friday and said his winning “desecrates the prize”, sank yesterday into official silence.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao didn’t answer a question about the prize that was submitted Friday for a joint news conference in Turkey with that country’s premier.
A Hong Kong-based rights group said the laureate’s wife, Liu Xia, had arrived in the northeastern province of Liaoning, where her husband is imprisoned.
The couple were expected to meet today but it was unclear where, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement citing Liu Xia’s brother.
AFP made several attempts to contact Liu Xia on her mobile phone to confirm her whereabouts but the calls were not answered.
One of her husband’s lawyers, Shang Baojun, who defended the Nobel laureate in his subversion trial, said he hadn’t been able to reach her. “I have no way of knowing where she is,” Shang told AFP.
Beijing kept up its denunciation of the decision to award the prize to Liu, issuing a harsh commentary in state media accusing the Nobel committee of arrogance and prejudice.
An editorial in the English and Chinese versions of the Global Times newspaper said the committee had “disgraced itself” and suggested the peace prize had been “degraded to a political tool that serves an anti-China purpose”.
“The Nobel committee once again displayed its arrogance and prejudice against a country that has made the most remarkable economic and social progress in the past three decades,” the newspaper said, alluding to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989.
“Neither of the two are among those who made contributions to China’s peace and growth in recent decades.”
News of the granting of the award to Liu — whom Beijing has repeatedly branded a criminal following his December 2009 jailing for 11 years for subversion — was carried by Chinese-language state media, but only in the form of the government’s angry reaction.
Internet searches using the key words “Nobel Peace Prize” and “Liu Xiaobo” brought up no results on Chinese web portals Sina and Sohu, while similar searches on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, also drew a blank.
Some web users got around the army of censors by not mentioning Liu’s name in their postings on Weibo.
Friday’s evening news on China Central Television made no mention of Liu while broadcasts on Liu by international television networks CNN and French TV5 were blocked by government censors.
Leading human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping, who heads the firm that defended Liu, told AFP China should be proud of one of its citizens winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Very few Chinese have been awarded Nobel Prizes, not only the peace prize but even the other prizes like in the sciences,” Mo said.
“Liu Xiaobo was educated in China and although he is in prison, he lives on the Chinese mainland. This makes him unique and special. This is why Chinese should take pride in this and be proud of him.”
Mo said the award would be a “huge encouragement and support for those who share the basic views” of the jailed dissident.
But the Global Times editorial sounded a defiant note, saying China would resist attempts to “impose Western values” on the country.
China’s rights community yesterday savoured the Nobel Peace Prize given to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo but warned the award could spell trouble after police rounded up activists celebrating the win.
Authorities detained dozens of Liu’s supporters in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities on Friday night as they gathered to toast his prestigious award, rights activists and a journalist from a Hong Kong newspaper told AFP.
“Last night some people were taken in by police. They don’t want people gathering and celebrating over this,” well-known human rights lawyer Teng Biao told AFP. “This is a big headache for the government. They don’t want people to know this matter.”
Seven Chinese intellectuals have signed an open letter congratulating Liu on his award, calling him a standard-bearer for non-violence in China, one of them told AFP.
The awarding of the prize to Liu — the co-author of a bold manifesto calling for political reform in communist-ruled China — offers “hope and support for a peaceful transformation in China,” the letter says.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama urged China to free his successor as Nobel Peace Prize winner, activist Liu Xiaobo, in a new test over the place of human rights in delicate Sino-US relations.
Obama, who has faced accusations of ignoring human rights concerns in his quest for better ties with China, issued a written statement welcoming Friday’s Nobel prize for Liu, a 54-year-old writer and democracy campaigner.
“Last year, I noted that so many others who have received the award had sacrificed so much more than I,” Obama said.
“That list now includes Mr Liu, who has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs.”
Obama noted that over the last 30 years, China had made “dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.”
“But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected.
“We call on the Chinese government to release Mr Liu as soon as possible.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued her own appeal for his release, saying “Governments should recognise the constructive role that citizens such as Liu Xiaobo play.”