OSLO, Norway – The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes Chinese authorities will allow the wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo to travel to Oslo and accept the award on his behalf, the panel’s spokesman said Tuesday.
Liu Xia has been under house arrest since the award to her human rights activist husband was announced last month.
“This situation has not been resolved as of today, but we have not given up entirely on the possibility of his wife coming,” committee secretary Geir Lundestad told The Associated Press.
If she cannot attend the Dec. 10 award ceremony, only a representative who has been authorized by the couple can collect the $1.5 million award, Lundestad said.
If no such representative is found, Lundestad said the event would take place anyway, “but it may be that at the ceremony there will be no handing over of the diploma and the medal as there normally is.”
Instead, the committee would read a text written by the prize winner, he said.
Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion after co-authoring a bold appeal known as Charter 08 calling for reforms to the country’s single-party Communist political system.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored him for more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change that started with the demonstrations at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
China has accused the West of using the Nobel Prize to undermine China and called Liu a criminal.
Last week, several diplomats said China has been pressuring European governments to avoid the ceremony and not make any statements in support of Liu.
But the French government announced Tuesday that it will send its ambassador in Norway to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said France’s ambassador always attends the ceremony and the “tradition will continue this year.”
Valero added that France’s foreign minister has been in contact with other European
Union governments, and they appear to be leaning toward the same decision as Paris.
Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy used an official visit by Chinese leader Hu Jintao to improve relations between the two countries and announce big business deals between them. Their ties had been strained two years ago by Sarkozy’s threat to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics out of anger about China’s treatment of Tibet.
Sarkozy’s red carpet treatment of Hu angered some human rights groups and led to questions about how much public support France would offer Liu. Sarkozy said he discussed human rights and Liu’s case with Hu but did not offer details.