The former chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee today justified awarding Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo with the 2010 peace prize which Beijing slammed as "blasphemy". "The struggle for Human Rights is peace building," Thorbjorn Jagland, who is still a member of the Nobel committee, said on Twitter. "That's why the Committee I chaired awarded #Liu Xiaobo the Peace Price (sic)," he added. The prominent democracy advocate died aged 61 in China yesterday while still in custody following a battle with cancer. Liu, a former figurehead of the 1989 democratic movement of Tiananmen Square, was honoured with the Nobel peace prize for "his long nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". Liu was not able to attend the Nobel award ceremony in Oslo in 2010 as he was serving an 11-year prison sentence for allegedly "attempting to undermine political order". The former head of the Nobel committee placed that year's peace prize on an empty chair to honour Liu. Liu became the first Nobel Peace laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who passed away in a hospital while held by the Nazis in 1938. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman today said that awarding the Nobel peace prize to Liu "goes against the purposes of this award" and is "a blasphemy". Contacted by AFP, the Nobel Committee refused to comment.
It is unclear whether Jagland's tweet was a reaction to the Chinese statement. The current leader of the Nobel committee, Berit Reiss- Andersen, who wanted to attend Liu's funeral, was not allowed to apply for a visa to China, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said. The Chinese embassy in Oslo explained that a visa could not be granted to meet a deceased person and that it would require an invitation from either Liu's widow or relative, NRK said. Following Liu's death on Thursday, the Nobel Committee said China was "bearing a heavy responsibility" for his "premature" death and criticised the fact that he was not able to receive "adequate medical treatment". Germany and the United States had offered to take him in for medical care.
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