The Nobel Committee chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland, urged China to release Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Peace on Friday in Oslo, during a symbolic ceremony of handing over the award to the Chinese dissident.
“Liu has only exercised his civil rights. He has not done anything wrong. He must be released,” said Jagland, according to whom the Chinese constitution formally guarantees freedom of expression and the right to criticize the state.
Former leading figure of the movement in the Tiananmen Square in 1989, Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11 years sentence in prison for “undermining the state power” after he was coauthor of Charter 08, a text asking for the democratization of China.
In his absence, an empty chair and a huge portrait of a smiling Liu Xiaobo represented him symbolically in the Oslo City Hall where the ceremony took place, an event that, as a coincidence of timing, took place exactly two years after the publication of the Charter.
Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann also read optimistic and encouraging statements made by Liu Xiaobo, after his conviction, on Christmas Day in 2009.
Considering Liu Xiaobo a “criminal”, China has worked hard behind the scenes to limit the impact of the ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize, urging other countries not to attend and threatening the states that support the dissident.
China has closely monitored the foreign press and censorship dissenters on Friday, hours before the symbolic award at Oslo. Liu’s home was surrounded by a highly visible security device.
Neither Liu nor his wife, Liu Xia, placed under surveillance at home, and neither his relatives, prevented from leaving China, couldn’t receive the prestigious award, as the communist regime opposed the awarding of the prize to the Chinese dissident since the announcement of the winner two months ago.
Many police vehicles, undercover or not, were stationed near Liu Xiaobo’s house, in a complex of buildings in western Beijing.
The police registered the names of journalists who were near the house.
Many people close to the couple and human rights campaigners either couldn’t be contacted on Friday or were placed under strict surveillance.
Some have been removed from Beijing before the ceremony in Oslo, while others chose to leave, in order to avoid problems.
Li Fangping, a lawyer constantly monitored by Beijing, said he left on Tuesday for the southern province of Fujian.
“Police took me to the airport,” he said, adding that he was told not to leave China and not to make any statement about the Nobel Prize.
Teng Biao, another lawyer and a teacher, was picked up by police at the end of a course and driven outside Beijing on Sunday, according to the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).
CHRD said that Zhang Zuhua, who co-authored together with Liu Xiaobo, the “Charter 08″, was picked up on Thursday by police near his house.
In addition, the authorities blocked foreign television from broadcasting programs about the ceremony in Oslo..
Web sites of several foreign media institutions were also blocked.
CNN, BBC and TV5 were interrupted by a black screen when any of these channels made reports devoted to the award of the Nobel Committee, whose members were characterized this week as “clowns” by a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“CNN.com is completely blocked … Every time our reports are broadcast about the Nobel Prize winner, the television screens black out,” said Jaime FlorCruz, director of the Beijing station of American television.
“We can confirm that all BBC sites, not just news, are blocked to users in China. We are not alone. It is the same for many other sites belonging to international news organizations,” the BBC stated.
“We are disappointed that our audiences in China are denied access to our impartial and editorially independent journalism,” the statement continued.
The site of the Norwegian television station NRK was also interrupted.
On 8 October, when the Nobel awards were announced, CNN, BBC and TV5 were censored. The Chinese TV channel CCTV didn’t make any reference to the prestigious prize.
In China, censorship is very active. Sites are blocked for political reasons , given that the Internet is used by almost 420 million surfers.
Nearly 20 countries, including China, Russia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Iraq have declined the invitation for “various reasons,” according to the Nobel Institute.