China says awarding Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo was 'blasphemy'

Pro-democracy activists mourn the death of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was a "blasphemy", China said on Friday (July 14) as it faced a barrage of criticism over the democracy activist's death.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also said China had lodged protests with "certain countries" for interfering in its "judicial sovereignty".

The US, Germany, France and the United Nations have criticised Beijing after Liu died on Thursday aged 61 following a battle with liver cancer while in jail. Germany and the United States had offered to take him in for medical care.

"Conferring the prize to such a person goes against the purposes of this award. It's a blasphemy of the peace prize," Geng told a regular news briefing.

Geng said China would not make a prejudgement about whether Liu's widow, who has been kept under house arrest since 2010, would be allowed to go overseas as demanded by several countries and human rights groups.

"We lodged representations with the countries that have made irresponsible remarks," Geng said.

The former chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee on Friday justified awarding Liu with the 2010 peace prize.

"The struggle for Human Rights is peace building," Thorbjorn Jagland, who is still a member of the Nobel committee, said on Twitter. "That's why the Committee I chaired awarded #Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize," he added.

Liu, a former figurehead of the 1989 democratic movement of Tiananmen Square, was honoured with the Nobel peace prize for "his long nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

He was not able to attend the Nobel award ceremony in Oslo in 2010 as he was serving an 11-year prison sentence for allegedly "attempting to undermine political order". The former head of the Nobel committee placed that year's peace prize on an empty chair to honour Liu.

Liu became the first Nobel Peace laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938.

Contacted by AFP, the Nobel Committee refused to comment. It is unclear whether Jagland's tweet was a reaction to the Chinese statement. Following Liu's death on Thursday, the Nobel Committee said China was "bearing a heavy responsibility" for his "premature" death and criticised that he was not able to receive "adequate medical treatment".

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