China faced fresh criticism today over its angry reaction to dissident Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Prize, with Norway calling it "inappropriate" and Japan urging Beijing to free the jailed peace laureate.
The comments came after the peace laureate's wife Liu Xia complained bitterly on Wednesday over her "illegal house arrest", which had already drawn a rebuke from Washington and Brussels.
She has been largely confined to her Beijing home since Friday, when Oslo's Nobel Committee awarded this year's peace prize to her dissident husband after he called for political reform and respect for human rights in one-party China.
Further risking Beijing's ire just as Japan and China seek to put a damaging diplomatic spat behind them, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday urged the release of Liu, a 54-year-old writer and former professer.
"From the viewpoint that universal human rights should be protected across national borders, it is desirable" that Liu be released, Kan told parliament.
China broke off all high-level contact with Tokyo last month after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel collided with Japanese coastguard patrol ships in waters claimed by both sides in the East China Sea.
However, the two close trading partners have recently taken steps to patch up the row.
China has reacted with fury to the Nobel award, directing the brunt of its anger at Oslo by cancelling ministerial meetings and a Norwegian musical scheduled to be staged in the country next month.
Oslo on Wednesday criticised the cancellations and said Norway wanted to continue its positive relationship with China.
"If this decision is the consequence of the awarding of the Nobel peace prize, we consider this an inappropriate reaction," Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund told AFP.
Liu Xia said that two Norwegian diplomats had attempted to visit her on Tuesday but were turned back at the entrance to her apartment block. The Norwegian embassy in Beijing confirmed that account.
Liu Xiaobo was sentenced in December to 11 years in jail on subversion charges in what was widely seen as retaliation for his authoring an appeal for political reform and respect for human rights.
China's Communist Party has an iron grip on political power in the country and its human rights record and treatment of government critics is frequently criticised by activists at home as well as foreign governments.
The United States and the European Union have called for the dissident's release and also urged Beijing to lift its house arrest of Liu Xia.
Liu has had her telephones cut off by authorities and has been communicating with the world primarily through periodic postings on Twitter.
Twitter is blocked in China but available to those who know how to access proxy servers that allow users to circumvent the secretive Communist government's huge censorship apparatus.
"I strongly protest against the government for my illegal house arrest," Liu Xia said in a tweet on Wednesday, calling her situation "very hard to take".
Shang Baojun, one of her husband's lawyers, told AFP Thursday that she remained unreachable by phone.
Liu Xia has expressed hope of travelling to Norway to accept the award on her husband's behalf, while saying authorities were unlikely to allow it.
But she told the Apple Daily the jailed dissident would not plead guilty or strike a deal with Chinese authorities in order to leave the country to collect his award.