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Chinese official calls Nobel Prize award 'blasphemy'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • The award will harm relations between China and Norway, spokesman says
  • Spokesman for foreign ministry says Liu Xiaobo's actions contradict the purpose of award
  • The award is supposed to "promote national harmony," he says

(CNN) -- Beijing blasted a Chinese dissident's Nobel Peace Prize win Friday, calling the decision to award Liu Xiaobo the honor "blasphemy."

Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, said the award is supposed to be given to those who "promote national harmony, international friendship" and work toward peace.

Liu is serving an 11-year prison term after being sentenced in 2009 for inciting subversion of state power. He is the co-author of Charter 08, a call for political reform and human rights, and was an adviser to the student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

"Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal sentenced to jail by Chinese justice. His acts are in complete contradiction to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize," Ma said.

The selection of Liu was made by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, whose president said the dissident won for his "long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."

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However, Ma said that while China and Norway have recently had "good relations," the committee's decision would harm future dealings between the two countries.

The Nobel Committee stood by its choice and said it had expected China to react strongly.

"We have a very strong tradition of awarding the prize to human rights activists of many different kinds," Geir Lundestad, director of the Nobel Institute, told CNN.

The institute assists the committee in selecting the prize each year.

Lundestad cited German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietsky in 1935, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in 1986, Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 and Iranian campaigner Shirin Ebadi in 2003 as examples of human rights activists who have won the prize.

"This is a tradition we are very proud of, and this is a tradition for which the Norwegian Nobel Committee has received much applause," Lundestad said. "We felt that if we were serious about this tradition, we did have to come to terms with the question of China in this perspective, and this is what we then did this year."

China's strongly worded response came in stark contrast to glowing reaction from around the world.

Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer who is Liu's friend, said the prize indicates that Liu will have a huge impact.

"I doubt the Nobel will help Xiaobo right this moment, but in the long run, it will leave a legacy that is sure to help bring democratic reform and freedom to China, that will far outlast Liu's life," Pu said.

"Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community's recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms," said the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989. "I believe in the years ahead, future generations of Chinese will be able to enjoy the fruits of the efforts that the current Chinese citizens are making towards responsible governance."