China's Nobel Boycott Leaves No One Looking Good

Well, Liu Xiaobo comes out all right

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This Friday, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony will take place in Oslo. That same day, the Nobel Prize Award ceremony, celebrating the laureates in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and economics, will be held in Stockholm. No representatives of China will attend the Nobel awards, because the recipient of the Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo, is serving an 11-year prison sentence in China for writing and circulating a subversive petition. The Chinese government has forbidden Liu, his wife, or any member of his family to attend, and Liu's seat will stand empty during the ceremony. A number of other countries are joining China in sitting out the awards, and no small amount of Western invective has been thrown around as a result.

  • In Total, 19 Countries Will Sit Out  The New York Times reports that 19 countries have declined to attend this year's ceremonies, including "China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq , Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco." Andrew Ward and Geoff Dyer for the Financial Times note that "the Norwegian Nobel committee has accused Beijing of applying 'unprecedented' pressure on countries to boycott the Oslo ceremony, amid Chinese anger over the award to the jailed dissident."
  • A Shameful List, writes Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. "What a lovely collection of rogues and cowards."
  • But Is China to Blame For All 19? wonders Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy. "What were the key factors that determined a country's decision not to attend Lu's Nobel ceremony?  How much of this was due to Chinese pressure, how much was due to ideological affinity with the Chinese regime, and how much was due to the ambassador's spouse renting The Expendables on Netflix and absolutely needing to watch it that night?"
  • Liu's Empty Seat Will Be an Embarrassment  In a piece for The Washington Post, Yang Jianli, a former political prisoner in China and the liaison to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee on behalf of Liu Xia, Liu's wife, writes that "a vacant seat on the stage will speak of weakness and fear. It will raise the specter of a government that clings to the past and is unwilling or unable to accept change based on the realities of life and the desires of its people." By contrast, allowing Liu Xia to attend the ceremony "would send a strong message that the government of China is ready, willing and able to move toward the political and human rights reforms that we all recognize are necessary for maintaining the harmony and stability of Chinese society and peace in the world."
  • Obama Has a Responsibility Here  William McGurn at The Wall Street Journal writes that Obama needs to reach out to dissidents in Liu's position, because "such meetings remind the world that America is not neutral in the battle between freedom and tyranny ... Even when unaccompanied by harsh rhetoric, a simple meeting between an American president and a dissident exposes before the world the moral gap between those rotting away in jail cells for their work for freedom and those who have put them there."
  • Where Is the United Nations? fumes Nile Gardiner at The Daily Telegraph. "To add insult to injury, the United Nations' chief human rights official has declined to attend ... Foreign Secretary William Hague, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should strongly condemn both China's refusal to allow Liu to accept his award, as well as the UN's decision to boycott the Nobel ceremony. It is a damning indictment of the United Nations when its leaders cower before a dictatorial regime and refuse to lift a finger in defence of human rights."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.