Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned dissident Liu Xiabo encouraged crime in China, the government said on Thursday, while telling his supporters to stop interfering in his case.
China has been issuing angry statements and rejecting calls for Liu's release since the Norwegian Nobel Committee honored him on Oct 8 for his more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change that started with the demonstrations at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The 54-year-old literary critic is serving an 11-year prison term after being convicted of inciting subversion for his role in writing an influential 2008 manifesto for political reform. "Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal for violating the laws of China. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to such a person is equivalent to encouraging crimes in China. It also constitutes a violation of China's judicial sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.
Numerous countries, including the United States, have asked for Liu's release. On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan guardedly said it would be "desirable" for China to free Liu, but stopped short of specifically calling for the imprisoned dissident's release.
"I wonder what their true intention is. Is it because they resent China's development path and hate China's political system?" Ma said at a regular news conference.
He accused the Norwegian Nobel Committee of being biased and said "Western governments had no right to interfere" in China. Liu's winning of the peace prize has caused a diplomatic rift between China and Norway, even though the Norwegian government is not involved in the selection of the winner.
China has canceled a string of meetings with Norwegian officials, and Oslo has pushed Beijing to lift restrictions imposed on Liu's wife, Liu Xia.
The country's state-controlled media have attacked Liu Xiaobo's supporters, with the Global Times issuing an editorial Thursday railing against "the endless ideological wars against China." It said the peace prize was part of a "concerto supplemented by various NGOs, economic identities and international organizations orchestrated by the developed countries" that hoped to press China to surrender its economic interests.
In the semiautonomous Chinese territory Hong Kong, several pro-democracy lawmakers showed solidarity with Liu on Thursday, displaying his picture in the legislature and wearing headbands inscribed with messages calling for his release.
Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung asked Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang to comment on Liu's Nobel award, but the Beijing-backed official declined to do so.
"I've never heard of a leader declining comment during question-and-answer time," Leung retorted. Later, another opposition lawmaker, Albert Chan, held up Liu's portrait as he berated Tsang for dodging the question. Both legislators were kicked out for disrupting order.
The former British colony, governed under a separate system, enjoys freedom of speech, and activists have held several protests at the central Chinese government's liaison office in Hong Kong.