China cancels meetings with official over Nobel row

08:18, October 13, 2010      

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Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the Global Times Tuesday that China has canceled two meetings with Norwegian Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, as analysts say this is sign of Beijing's protest against the Nobel Peace Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese prisoner.

The Oslo-based committee announced Friday that it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to 54-year-old Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence after being convicted in December of agitation aimed at subverting the government.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu is disrespectful to the country's judicial system, also noting that it would not influence the direction of China's political system.

"We already made our position clear. Since the reform and opening up, China has made remarkable progress," said Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for China's foreign ministry. "By giving a convicted person the Nobel Peace Prize, they show no respect for China's judicial system."

"We regret the decision of the cancellation the meetings," Ragnhild Imerslund, a spokeswoman of the Norwegian foreign ministry, told the Global Times. "Cooperation in the sector of fisheries is important for both countries."

Berg-Hansen, who arrived in Shanghai on Monday to visit the World Expo, was scheduled to meet with the Chinese vice minister of agricluture Tuesday and then with officials of China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine today in Beijing.

"China's cancellation of the meetings is to express its protest and discontent to Norway since the peace committee's decision hurt relations between China and Norway," said Yang Mian, a professor of international communications at the Communication University of China.

China had warned that awarding the prize to Liu would damage ties between Beijing and Oslo, as it violates the principles of the prize and discredits it.

"If it is the case that the cancellations of the meetings is a reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's decision, this is unnecessary, as the committee is independent," Imerslund said.

Although Norway has insisted that the Peace Prize Committee operates independently of the government, five members of the committee have been appointed by the Norwegian Parliament for six-year terms.

Norway's government also congratulated Liu on Friday for winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Imerslund said China's decision to cancel meetings with the Norwegian official shouldn't affect relations between the two countries.

Norway has a lot at stake if the bilateral ties sour. It is targeting increasing sales of salmon to China by 62 percent to 30,000 tons in 2012, Bloomberg reported.

By Wang Zhaokun, Global Times
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