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Xiaobo gets Nobel in absentia

world Updated: Dec 11, 2010 07:32 IST
The Washington Post

The blue-and-white upholstered chair reserved for him was empty, and his words were spoken not in his own voice, but by the Norwegian actress and movie director Liv Ulman.

At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on Friday, jailed Chinese dissident and intellectual Liu Xiaobo was nowhere to be seen.

Yet his campaign to bring universal human rights and democracy to China was recognised at a somber and formal ceremony made more visible, in many ways, by Beijing's efforts to suppress it.

"We regret that the laureate is not present. He is in isolation in a prison in northeastern China," said Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland. "Nor can his his wife or closest relatives be with us. ... This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate."

The audience of several hundred dignitaries, diplomats and officials responded with sustained applause and a standing ovation. An oversize portrait of Liu, 54, had been hung on the stage in the stately hall. His eyes, behind his trademark spectacles, appeared to take in the proceedings.

When he finished speaking, Jagland placed the medal and certificate normally awarded to the laureate in the empty chair upon the stage, triggering another ovation.

Ulman read from Liu's final statement before being sentenced to 11 years in jail for political incitement.

"And now, I have once again been shoved into the dock by the enemy mentality of the regime," Liu wrote. "But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by [my] convictions. ... I have no enemies, and no hatred."

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