Oslo no show

At first it sounds like the sort of administrative disaster that most party hosts dread. Having elected to give an award to someone, as the day approaches it transpires that they can’t come, and neither can any member of their immediate family in their stead. Since the rules of the award stipulate one or other must be present you have to scrap the whole undertaking. 

How embarrassing. Well yes, but not for the Nobel Peace Prize organisers, for China. This eventuality was inherently predictable. The Nobel committee, knew the party’s guest of honour would not be coming from the start, and Liu Xiaobo’s infamy is all the greater in absentia. 

Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power" for his part as the leading author behind “Charter 08”, a manifesto calling for the recognition of fundamental human rights in China. This same action, also earned him the most prestigious human rights accolade in the world. This divergence in the way Liu Xiaobo’s manifesto was received has put China at odds with vast swathes of the international community. Vast swathes, but not all

Not content to just stay away, and keep the guest of honour behind bars, China has been stomping its feet and pressuring others to boycott the ceremony. 19 have so far bowed to this pressure. Yet if this boycott was intended to dampen interest, it has had completely the opposite affect. Journalists are naming and shaming the countries who have declined to attend, and China’s decision to ground anyone they view as a threat, for historic involvement in peaceful protest, or even just familial ties has also resulted in a media outcry internationally. 

Salil Shetty Amnesty International’s Secretary General, will be in Oslo, on Friday at the invitation of Liu Xiaobo’s family.  He will be voicing Amnesty’s support for Liu Xiaobo, and his wife, and decrying China’s reaction to the award. Whether or not Liu Xiaobo is himself aware of the depth and volume of support he has received across the globe is unclear, but the decision to give him the peace prize has already achieved its end, of bringing him out of the shadows and amplifying his cause. He is now a household name, which is irksome to the Chinese authorities, no doubt, but a decision I think worthy of an award in itself.

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