The Obama administration Wednesday reaffirmed its intention to attend the Oslo ceremonies at which jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo will be given the Nobel Peace Prize, and said Liu and his wife should be allowed to take part as well. China is reportedly pressing governments not to attend the Friday event.
The State Department says the decision on the Oslo ceremony is for individual governments to make. But it says the United States will be "pleased" to be there, and that China should allow the imprisoned human rights activist and his wife to attend.
The comments here came amid reports that China, which has labeled Liu a criminal and denounced his award as an "obscenity," has mounted a diplomatic campaign to persuade governments around the world not to attend.
Liu, who was named to receive the Peace Prize in October, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in late 2009 after organizing a petition, called Charter '08, calling for greater political rights in China.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. will be represented in Oslo by American ambassador Barry White.
He said the United States strongly supports the Nobel committee in selecting Liu and that the honor is well-deserved.
He said there should "absolutely" be a ceremony and international recognition for Liu. "We think the Nobel committee has made a strong statement, and we will associate ourselves with that statement and this event. It sends a strong statement about what all countries should strive to achieve, which is full human rights for all their citizens, the ability to express their views, participate in the political process, and enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of association and the opportunity to play a role in the future of any country," Crowley said.
Crowley said the United States encourages other countries to embrace those universal human rights, while saying governments will make up their own minds about attending the Oslo event.
China has said a majority of governments will not attend, though the Norwegian award committee says two-thirds of those invited have accepted.
The U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday approved a resolution congratulating Liu for winning the peace prize and calling for his release from custody.
The non-binding measure, approved by a vote of 402-1, calls on China to stop censoring news of the award, and says that human rights violations in China and elsewhere are matters of legitimate concern for other countries.