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China Cracks Down as Nobel Prize Date Nears

A pro-democracy protester holding the picture of the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, tries to climb across the police line during a demonstration at the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong, Nov 11, 2010 (file photo)

Worldwide, supporters of Liu Xiaobo are showing their support for the jailed Chinese dissident who will receive the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia Friday. The 54-year-old writer is serving an 11-year prison term on charges of inciting subversion.

Chinese officials have begun a sweeping campaign to stop all mainland Chinese from either attending the ceremony in Oslo, Sweden, or for voicing support for Liu. A newly formed Chinese organization also says it will award its own peace prize on Thursday.

Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Hong Kong demanding the release of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo ahead of him receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.
"I think it's a shame but I think the fact that the citizens of Hong Kong can speak out as opposed to the 1.3 billion people in China that are not able to, I think we need to do what we do today," said protester Wei Ko.

"When we go to Norway we will protest outside the Chinese Embassy, we will also protest outside the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony - city hall - to show our support for Liu Xiaobo to get the award," said Lee Cheuk-Yan, a Hong Kong lawmaker.

But mainland Chinese, whose human rights Liu championed, will not be attending. Amnesty International reports China has jailed hundreds in the run-up to Friday's awards ceremony. The group also reports that Liu's wife, who could have collected the $1.5-million prize for him, is under house arrest.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday that many countries support China in opposing the award for Liu.

"More than 100 nations and organizations in the world have clearly presented their support for China's stance to oppose the Nobel Prize Committee this year," said Jiang Yu at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

China has mounted a campaign to keep other countries from sending representatives to the ceremony in Oslo. Nineteen are not going, including Russia, Serbia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Bruce Gilley, a political scientist at Portland State University in Oregon, expects that despite China's campaign against the Nobel Prize, some measure of liberalization is underway there. "I do not believe the Nobel Prize will have any measurable effect on political reform in China, any more than the award of the same prize to his Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1989 had any effect on Chinese rule in Tibet. But I do believe that it will serve as an important beacon to policy makers outside of China, reminding them to engage, target and retain faith in Liu Xiaobo's China."

And this from Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch: "What the Liu Xiaobo Nobel has created for the Chinese government is a running sore that's going to continue as long as he is imprisoned."

Kine said that as long as there is a news story that refers to Liu Xiaobo, the light will be shining on China's human rights practices.