China's relentless criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize's bestowal on imprisoned Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo showed signs of backfiring Thursday, as criticism of Beijing rose a day ahead of the award ceremony.
Beijing's high-pressure tactics and campaign of vilification have ensured a wave of publicity for Liu, a bookish 54-year-old democracy activist who was formerly all but unknown even inside China. Its attempts to sabotage Friday's award ceremony in Oslo have sparked a backlash, with the governments of Serbia and the Philippines both receiving brickbats for caving in to China's demands to boycott the event.
China and 18 other nations, mostly close allies and fellow authoritarian states, have declined to attend, according to the Nobel committee, although there were reports Colombia had reversed itself and decided to attend. Rights group Amnesty International said members of Norway's Chinese community were being pressured by Chinese diplomats to attend anti-Nobel protests planned for Friday, and had been threatened with retaliation if they failed to appear.
The campaign against the Nobel committee has taken a toll on China's efforts to win foreign friends by projecting a more mild image of the nation even as in China, Liu's wife, Liu Xia, and dozens of friends, colleagues and sympathisers in the country's embattled dissident community remained under house arrest or tight surveillance to prevent them from attending the ceremony.