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World News

China warns Europe on support for Nobel winner

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese diplomat warned European nations on Friday against supporting Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, saying it would be seen as an affront to China’s legal system.

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China reacted angrily to the award of the prize to imprisoned Liu last month, calling it an “obscenity” that would not change the country’s political system. Liu’s wife and a score of other dissidents have since been put under house arrest.

Cui Tiankai, a vice foreign minister and China’s key G20 negotiator, told reporters in Beijing that any European government officials who attended the December award ceremony for Liu would “have to bear the consequences”.

“This Nobel Peace Prize is highly politicised,” Cui said, speaking ahead of next week’s G20 summit in South Korean capital Seoul.

“The choice before some European countries and others is clear and simple: do they want to be part of the political game to challenge China’s judicial system or do they want to develop a true friendly relationship with the Chinese government and people in a responsible manner?” he added.

“What image do they want to leave for ordinary Chinese people? So, in my view, they are facing such a choice. They have to make the choice according to their own judgement,” Cui said.

“If they make the wrong choice, they have to bear the consequences,” he added, without elaborating.

LOUD CRITICISM

The New York Times reported on Thursday that China was putting pressure on European governments to boycott the Nobel awards ceremony in December. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment directly on that report.

Beijing has cancelled several official meetings with Norway after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu, a man the Chinese government labels a criminal and who is serving an 11-year jail term on subversion charges for his role in advocating democracy and an end to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

Norway is home to the Nobel Peace Prize committee, though the government there has no say in who receives it.

Analysts say China’s loud criticism of foreign governments over the prize is mainly for home consumption and that long-term diplomatic or economic fall-out is likely to be limited.

Still, France carefully avoided antagonising Beijing ahead of this week’s visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, and scarcely reacted to Liu’s prize.

Hu oversaw the signing of $20 billion worth of corporate investment contracts and pledged to double China’s annual trade with France to $80 billion over the next five years.

Reporting by Simon Rabinovitch and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills

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