OSLO (Reuters) - China cancelled a cabinet level political meeting with Norway on Tuesday for the second time since the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a news conference in Beijing the award to Liu last week showed a lack of respect for China’s judicial system that damaged ties between the two countries.
In Oslo, the Committee said that it would be “delighted” for Liu’s wife to accept the award at a ceremony on December 10 in Oslo if Liu, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for “subverting” the Chinese state, were prohibited from travelling.
Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen was supposed to meet Sun Dawei, vice minister of China’s food safety authority, on Wednesday in Beijing but was told on Tuesday that the meeting was off, Norwegian officials said.
On Monday the Chinese cancelled a meeting between Berg-Hansen and Chinese vice fisheries minister Niu Dum, also scheduled for Wednesday, in protest at the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu.
“Other meetings at the working level are proceeding as normal but meetings at the political level have all been cancelled,” Ragnhild Imerslund, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry, told Reuters.
“We regret that this meeting (with the food safety official) is now cancelled,” she added.
Also on Tuesday Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, told Reuters that her husband “hopes I can go to Norway to receive the prize for him.”
Geir Lundestad, the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee which awards the Peace Prize, welcomed the news.
“We would be delighted to see her here. This has happened several times in the past,” he told Reuters.
Laureates such as Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa and Aung San Suu Kyi were all represented in Oslo by family members, he said.
Lundestad said that if Liu himself could attend the ceremony on December 10 “that would be a bigger and even more pleasant surprise, but we are not counting on it.”
Norwegian authorities have been at pains to explain that the Norwegian government plays no role in the deliberations of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma specified that China’s angry reaction at Norway was due not only to the committee’s decision but also to the Norwegian government’s support of it, apparently referring to officials’ statements of congratulations to Liu.
“The argument has now changed,” said Imerslund at the Norwegian foreign ministry. “But it is customary and totally appropriate that Norway congratulates the prize winner, and we can only refer to the committee’s reasoning and rationale for the prize.”
Editing by Tim Pearce