December 20, 2016 / 9:42 AM / 9 months ago

China says will not change position on Nobel Peace Prize

Signs and portraits of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia are seen in front of the national emblem of China during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, China December 25, 2015. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said it will not change its position on opposing the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to people it considers criminals, even though Beijing and Norway had now normalised ties frozen since 2010 when a prominent Chinese dissident won.

Liu Xiaobo, 59, was jailed by a Chinese court for 11 years in 2009 on subversion charges for organising a petition urging an end to one-party rule. He remains in prison.

China has previously levelled blame at the Norwegian government for the award, though Oslo has no say in who the Oslo-based Nobel committee gives it to.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende visited Beijing this week to normalise diplomatic and political relations, which will include work on a possible free-trade deal.

Asked whether China’s view on the Nobel Peace Prize had now changed, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the prize was originally conceived to promote peace and friendship between people and promote disarmament.

“We hope this prize can really benefit the development of world peace,” Hua told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

“In the past, certain people, in order to achieve political aims, have mistakenly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to people who want to split China, damage ethnic unity and criminals who incite the subversion of China’s political power,” she added.

“This not only runs contrary to the dying wishes of Mr. Nobel and the aims of the Nobel Peace Prize, it is also a brutal interference in China’s internal affairs. China is clearly and resolutely opposed to this, and this position will not change.”

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a man reviled by Beijing as a separatist, won the prize in 1989. He denies seeking independence for his remote homeland, insisting he merely wants genuine autonomy.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since its troops “peacefully liberated” the region in 1950.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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