BEIJING (Reuters) - Nobel Peace Prize-winning Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo dedicated the award to people killed in the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests, reports said on Monday, while Chinese media said the prize showed the West feared China.
The rival responses to Liu’s award, announced on Friday, have laid bare the raw tensions between China’s ruling Communist Party and critics, at home and abroad, pressing for democratic change.
Those tensions still draw on sensitive memories of 1989.
Liu, serving 11 years in jail for campaigning for democratic transformation of China’s one-party state, told his wife Liu Xia the award was a tribute to citizens killed that year when troops moved in to crush the protests centred on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.
“This prize goes to all of those who died on June 4, 1989,” he told her, according to Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper, citing a message from Liu Xia after she visited him in prison.
State-controlled Chinese newspapers countered that the prize to Liu, once reviled by Beijing as a traitorous “black hand” behind the 1989 protests, showed a prejudiced West afraid of China’s rising wealth and standing.
“The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to ‘dissident’ Liu Xiaobo was nothing more than another expression of this prejudice, and behind it lies an extraordinary terror of China’s rise and the Chinese model,” said the Global Times, a popular Chinese-language tabloid that has led the media charge against the Nobel decision.
If Liu’s calls for a multi-party democracy in China were followed, a commentary in the paper said: “China’s fate would perhaps be no better than the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and the country probably would have quickly collapsed.”
The China Daily, one of the government’s main English-language mouthpieces, said the award was “part of the plot to contain China”.
The Nobel exposed “the deep and wide ideological rift between this country and the West”, said the paper.
Liu, 54, has been a thorn in the government’s side since 1989. He has been in and out of jail ever since for his campaigning for freedom of speech and political liberalisation.
Liu’s prize was applauded in the United States and Europe, and President Barack Obama called for his release.
China’s Foreign Ministry has responded by calling the prize an “obscenity” and by blaming the Norwegian government, though the government in Oslo has no say in who gets the award.
Beijing cancelled a meeting scheduled in China this week with the Norwegian fisheries minister to show its ire, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, also said she had been “put under house arrest”, the Dagbladet reported.
Liu’s lawyer, Shang Baojun, told Reuters that he had been unable to contact her.
“She’s probably at home with communications cut off, under surveillance,” he said, citing messages on the Internet.
Rights groups have also reported that other activists and dissidents have been detained since the prize was announced.
Many signatories of the “Charter 08” petition that called for sweeping political reforms have either been locked away, put under house arrest or otherwise harassed.
Popular online Chinese portals such as search engine Baidu have disabled searches for Liu’s name.
In Hong Kong, which enjoys considerable freedoms as a special administrative territory of China, a small group of protesters demanding Liu’s release gathered outside the liaison office that represents Beijing.
“The authoritarian regime can either go down in history or they have to transform themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Ho.
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, James Pomfret in Hong Kong, Ralph Jennings in Taipei and Joachim Dagenborgin Oslo; Editing by Alex Richardson