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September 22, 2017

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Petty China's Nobel problems to continue

Although it is now more than a month since the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese government is continuing to tighten surveillance of the imprisoned writer's supporters in the country and to exert pressure on governments in Europe to distance themselves from the Nobel committee.

China reacted initially by terming the award an "obscenity" and demanded an apology. It accused Europeans generally of using the Nobel prize as part of a plot to contain China.

It has also accused the West of trying to force its values on China. Now, however, the focus is on the scheduled formal ceremony for the conferment of the award in Oslo on Dec. 10, at a grand ceremony in the presence of the king and queen of Norway.

It is unclear who will receive the award on Liu's behalf. Needless to say, the intended recipient will be kept in prison and will not be allowed to travel to Norway.

It is also highly unlikely that his wife, Liu Xia, will be allowed to do that either. In fact, she was placed under house arrest as soon as his award was announced on Oct. 8.

Liu's wife has made public a list of about 140 names of his friends whom she has asked to receive the award on her husband's behalf. Many of them, too, including dissidents, academics and lawyers, have been put under house arrest or are under very tight surveillance as part of the crackdown initiated by the government in the wake of the Nobel award. It is doubtful that they will be allowed to leave the country.

However, there are one or two dissidents who are currently overseas, and who may therefore be able to fly to Oslo.

One is the writer Dai Qing, a leading dissident who is on Liu Xia's list and who is currently in Canada on a speaking tour.

Dai, who was jailed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square military crackdown, issued a statement in which she compared the Chinese government's reaction to Liu Xiaobo's award to that of "the Nazi authorities and the Burmese military regime," who were "also displeased when German journalist Carl von Ossietzky and Burmese social activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the peace prize."

After calling on Beijing to allow Liu's wife or friends to receive the prize in his stead, she declared that if no one in China is allowed to go to Oslo, then "I will go there to fulfill my duty to my friend."

And so, it seems, Liu's peace prize will not lie uncollected gathering dust. But, of course, Dai Qing is right. There is no reason why Beijing should not allow Liu's wife or one of his close friends to receive the award for him.

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