Early this morning in Norway, the Nobel committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to pro democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident imprisoned last year for subversion, for helping to spearhead a campaign for more freedom in China.
In a statement, the Nobel Committee said Liu, 54, deserved the prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." They added "China's new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights.
Predictably from the government that has sentence Liu to an 11-year-prison term, Chinese officials were dismissive and critical of the award.
"Liu Xiaobo is a sentenced criminal who has violated Chinese law," a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, said honoring Liu "runs counter to the principles of the Nobel Peace Prize."
Liu is the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize and one of three laureates to have received it while in prison.
From the New York Times, which reports that the Chinese government blocked CNN's feed into China of the announcement this morning:
Thorbjoern Jagland, the chairman of the five-member Nobel committee, said Mr. Liu Xiaobo had become the foremost symbol for the human rights struggle in China. While he acknowledged that China had sought to dissuade the committee from making the award to Mr. Liu, he underscored that the committee acted independently of the Norwegian government and believed that it was right to criticize big powers.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace, he added.
China has become a big power in economic terms as well as political terms, and it is normal that big powers should be under criticism, he said in Oslo, where the prize was announced.