Amnesty International has welcomed the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, after attending the ceremony in Oslo today.
"It was a fitting and dignified tribute and an inspiration to human rights defenders in China and worldwide," said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty after the ceremony.
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.
Throughout the awards ceremony, Liu Xiaobo was represented by an empty chair.
Nobel rules require the winner or his or her immediate family to personally accept the prize. Liu Xiaobo’s enforced absence meant that for the first time since 1936, the peace prize was not awarded at the ceremony.
Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, could have collected the award for him, but she has been detained by Chinese authorities and is currently under house arrest in Beijing. She is unable to move about freely and has not been allowed to be in contact with friends or family for nearly two months.
Liu Xiaobo has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China's own constitution and basic human rights, but, like many others in China who have chosen to speak out, he has been severely punished.
He is just one of thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience currently being held in China.
"The Chinese government should release Liu Xiaobo and all the other prisoners of conscience," said Salil Shetty. "The Chinese government should uphold internationally recognised human rights standards, many of which are enshrined in their own constitution."
In the months leading up to the ceremony, Amnesty International and Chinese human rights groups documented hundreds of cases of people being detained, interrogated, or arrested in a crackdown which coincided with a campaign by Chinese authorities to disrupt the awards.
Chinese authorities also pressured other countries to boycott the ceremony. However, despite a campaign of political and economic pressure, only 18 countries declined the invitation to the ceremony.
Reliable sources told Amnesty International that Chinese residents in Norway had also been pressured into joining the anti-Nobel demonstrations today.
Over the last two months Chinese residents in Norway have been repeatedly visited and called to meetings by representatives of the Chinese government.
At a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Oslo on Thursday afternoon, Amnesty International campaigners presented a petition with nearly 100,000 (96,400) signatures from around the world, calling for the release of Liu Xiaobo and all of the other prisoners of conscience currently being held by the Chinese government.
“The Chinese government should be celebrating this global recognition of a Chinese writer and activist,” said Salil Shetty.
“Instead, the government’s very public tantrum has generated even more critical attention inside and outside China – and, ironically, emphasized the significance of Liu Xiaobo’s message of respect for human rights.”