China made peace prize decision for us, says Nobel judge
Jailing of dissident Liu Xiaobo 'solved the problem' of how committee should recognise Chinese activists
China's decision to jail dissident Liu Xiaobo for 11 years convinced the Nobel committee to award him this year's peace prize, according to one of the judges.
Geir Lundestad of the Norwegian Nobel committee confirmed speculation that the unusually tough sentence made Liu an obvious choice. He said Beijing's decision "solved the problem" of how to recognise Chinese activists.
He said the judges had gradually come to believe they had to "address the China question".
"If we had given a prize to a dissident from Cuba or Vietnam, fine, there are difficult situations in those countries," he said during a talk at Oxford University. "But the question would then be: why don't you address China?
"And we felt that the credibility of the prize depended on this – we had to address this issue – despite the complexities that this would involve."
He added: "The next question was who should we give the prize to?
"We've studied this for several years: who are the right dissidents? We felt, obviously, that Liu was very important in his own right.
"But the Chinese government solved the problem for us. On 25 December 2009, they punished him, they sentenced him to 11 years in prison.
"And automatically, he became not only one, or perhaps the leading representative of human rights, but he also became a universal symbol of human rights."
Liu's sentence, for incitement to subvert state power, was one of the harshest handed to a dissident for many years.
He was convicted for his co-authorship of Charter 08 – a blueprint for democratic reforms in China, and other essays.
No one from the Chinese foreign ministry was available to respond Lundestad's remarks this evening.
Lundestad's comments, which may fuel accusations in the state media that the west is seeking to impose its values on China.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters yesterday that Liu was "convicted by Chinese judicial authorities for breaking China's laws".
He added: "We oppose any attempt to make an issue of this, and we oppose anyone infringing on China's judicial sovereignty in any way."
Others have suggested that Liu's win could give ammunition to moderates in government.
"The hardliners who decided on this [harsh] course on Charter 08 brought this considerable embarrassment on themselves," said Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Prior to the announcement of the award, Lundestad said that China's deputy foreign minister, Fu Ying, had warned the committee not to give the award to a dissident.
It is still unclear who will collect Liu's prize at the ceremony in December. His wife Liu Xia is under house arrest but has invited more than 140 other people – including dissidents and celebrities – to attend the event in Norway on his behalf.
A Chongqing woman who friends said was seized by police in the middle of the night after tweeting that she would march with a banner supporting Liu has been allowed home, her friend said today.
Zhang Shijie, a blogger who first tweeted Mou Yanxi's detention, said she was unharmed but "tired and scared". He added that police had kept her mobile phone and computer.