To the dismay of human rights activists around the world, Beijing has conducted a sweeping crackdown on dissent and demanded that other governments boycott Friday's Nobel ceremony in Oslo.
"The Chinese government is not happy that Liu Xiaobo is receiving this award, and that was to be expected," Minky Worden, the director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, said. "But the overreaction that we've seen from Beijing is not worthy of a government that projects [itself] abroad as a strong, confident, growing and responsible power."
Liu, 54, whose long career of activism stretches back to the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement, was sentenced last year after he co-authored a manifesto calling for human rights and political reform titled Charter 08. His wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest shortly after it was announced he was this year's recipient of the Nobel.
Rights group Amnesty International estimates more than 250 people have either been stopped from going abroad, detained, or put under house arrest ahead of Friday's ceremony, as part of a clampdown in China that has blocked Western media. BBC and CNN's Web sites were both down in China on Thursday, while BBC is completely blocked on television. Though CNN's broadcast is still up, all reports about Liu and the Nobel Prize are blocked.
As part of the media crackdown, ABC News was prevented from filming in Tiananmen Square, after being surrounded and questioned by police. ABC News' Clarissa Ward said it is normal for police to ask members of the press for accreditation, but rarely are reporters forbidden from filming in the square. A woman videotaped the group, and another man in plainclothes wearing a clip-on camera questioned the crew in Chinese, only switching to perfect English at the very end of the conversation.
As pro-democracy protestors gathered in Oslo in support of Liu, China presented the inaugural Confucius Peace Prize at a ceremony Thursday, honoring a man who was not aware he was receiving the award. Confucius Prize panel members refused to take questions about the Nobel Prize and Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion.
The office of former vice president of Taiwan, Lien Chan, said he had not heard of the Confucius award, and he was not present at the ceremony to collect it. Ward, who attended the ceremony, said a 5-year-old girl, of no relation to the recipient, accepted the award of $15,000.
Though the awards committee stressed the Confucius Peace Prize had nothing to do with the Nobel, the booklet handed out at the ceremony said, "China is a symbol of peace, meanwhile it won the absolute power to uphold peace ... In essence, Norway is only a small country with scarce land area and population."
Worden said "the logic is that they think if they give this prize the day before, than no one will notice the giant ceremony in Oslo with the empty chair."
This year will be the first time a laureate or a representative is not formally represented at the Oslo awards gala since Nazi Germany barred pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from attending in 1935.