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India, 45 Other Countries Attend Nobel Peace Ceremony

PTI 10 Dec 2010, 18:18:18 IST
Oslo/New Delhi, Dec 10: Ignoring Chinese pressure, India today attended the ceremony in Oslo at whichimprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was given the Nobel Peace Prize although he was dubbed as "criminal" by Beijing.

Russia, Pakistan were among the 15 countries which kept away from the ceremony in view of the strong call made by China to all governments to boycott the ceremony, which falls on the World Human Rights Day.

India was among 46 nations, including the US, the UK and France which attended the ceremony to honour 55-year-old Liu, who has long been an outspoken opponent of the Chinese leadership.

Liu could not be present to accept the award because he is still serving a 11-year sentence for dissidence. In the past, former Polish President Lech Walesa and Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi were not able to take the award in person because they were incarcerated.

New Delhi has made it clear that its decision to attend the Nobel Peace Prize presentation was not a bilateral issue between New Delhi and Beijing.

"This is not a bilateral question between China and India. This is a Nobel function arranged by the Nobel foundation.... I think India has already taken a decision to be represented as... on earlier occasions through our Ambassador," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had said in New Delhi yesterday.

The ceremony was also attended by many exiled Chinese dissidents, ambassadors, Norwegian royals and other dignitaries who gathered around an empty chair to hail absent Nobel Peace laureate Liu.

During the ceremony, repeatedly punctuated by applause and a standing ovation, Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said the Nobel award is not "anti-China" and the panel's intention was "never to offend anyone".

Speaking about relations between human rights, democracy and peace, he said the award reminds the world that the rights enjoyed today by people was because the great risks taken by many for others.

He said Liu is a symbol of non-violent struggle for human rights. "Liu has done no wrong and must be released." "China must be prepared for criticism," Jagland said.

At the ceremony where hundreds of delegates surrounded an empty chair kept in honour of the jailed Chinese dissident "The empty chair is a very strong symbol (that) shows
how appropriate this prize was," he told a press conference before the ceremony.

Liu, the writer and former university professor was at the forefront of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

He was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges after co-authoring "Charter 08", a manifesto that spread quickly on the Internet calling for political reform and greater rights in China.

Beijing was enraged by the Norwegian Nobel Committee's pick this year, which was announced in October.

The Chinese authorities labelled the laureate a "criminal" and placed his wife Liu Xia under house arrest.

And the Chinese authorities' fury has mounted in the run-up to today's ceremony, threatening "consequences" for countries that come out in support of Liu and lambasting the Nobel Committee as "clowns." PTI