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Protests hit Chinese embassy in Oslo on eve of Nobel ceremony

Human rights group Amnesty International organized demonstrations at the Chinese embassy in Oslo on Thursday, as China stepped up its criticism a day ahead of a ceremony honoring jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Liu Xiaobo

Liu has been in prison since December last year

Protests were held outside the Chinese embassy in the Norwegian capital Oslo on Thursday, a day ahead of a ceremony to honor jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Rights group Amnesty International, which organized the demonstration, attempted to use the event to hand over a petition signed by some 100,000 people in support of Liu.

However, the gates to the embassy remained locked and all windows were shuttered, leading to the protestors piling up the signed petitions outside the building perimeter.

"The Chinese government should be celebrating this global recognition of a Chinese writer and activist," said AI secretary general Salil Shetty.

"Instead, the government's very public tantrum has generated even more critical attention inside and outside China, and, ironically, emphasized the significance of Liu Xiaobo's message of respect for human rights," Shetty said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu

Jiang says most nations will boycott the ceremony

Amnesty and the Nobel Institute have meanwhile accused Beijing of pressuring Chinese nationals living in Oslo to join counter-protests against Liu.

The 54-year-old writer, human rights activist and critic of one-party rule in China was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring a petition calling for a multi-party system in China.

He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his long non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in the communist state. However, the move greatly angered China, which saw it as an attempt to meddle in its internal affairs.

Pressure on China 'cannot succeed'

Beijing has gone to great lengths in recent weeks to push for a boycott of the Nobel ceremony in Oslo, claiming that most of the world was opposed to the Nobel Committee's decision to honor Liu.

So far, some 20 states, including Russia, Cuba and Venezuela, and most of which have strong commercial ties with Beijing, have followed China in shunning the event.

"Those people at the Nobel Committee have to admit they are in the minority. The Chinese people and the overwhelming majority of countries and people in the world oppose what they do," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

"Any attempt to exert pressure on China... cannot succeed."

A protest for Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong

Liu's continued detention sparked protests around the world

World behind Nobel award

But the head of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, said Thursday that some two-thirds of nations invited to the ceremony were expected to attend, and that the choice of Liu as this year's peace laureate was not a move "against" Beijing.

"This is not a prize against China. This is a prize honoring people in China," Jagland told a press conference traditionally held by the laureate on the day before the prize ceremony.

Jagland insisted however it was important to push for political reforms and an opening of civil society to parallel China's massive economic development.

"To a large extent the future of the world is in the hands of this big country," he said.

Speaking of the empty chair that will represent the absent dissident, Jagland said "it is a very strong symbol (that) shows how appropriate this prize was."

Author: Darren Mara (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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