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Chinese authorities silence friends of Liu Xiaobo in extensive roundup

China has gone to extraordinarily lengths to stop any of political prisoner Liu Xiaobo's friends or family from attending Friday’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

By Staff writer / December 9, 2010

A girl accepted a certificate of the first Confucius Peace Prize for the awardee former Taiwanese vice president Lien Chan in Beijing on Thursday. A Chinese group awarded its own version of a peace prize Thursday, a move apparently intended to counter the Nobel committee's decision to honor imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Alexander F. Yuan/AP

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Beijing

Teng Biao, a bespectacled moon-faced lawyer who has made a name for himself by supporting political dissidents, walked out of the Thursday morning class he teaches at Beijing’s University of Politics and Law, and straight into the arms of the police.

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He was going for a ride, they told him, to a small town outside the capital.

That is all anyone knows about Mr. Teng’s current fate, all he was able to put in a Twitter feed as he was taken away. Callers to his mobile phone later got a message that it was out of service.

Teng is one of hundreds of Chinese citizens who in recent days have been taken away to unknown destinations, or put under house arrest, or put under close surveillance, or stopped from leaving the country, or forbidden to speak to journalists or otherwise had their freedom curtailed.

19 Countries take China's side on Nobel Prize

With the approach of Friday’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo honoring this year’s laureate Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese political prisoner, the Chinese government has gone to extraordinarily lengths to stop any of his friends or family from attending the ceremony.

“The scale and diligence of the security forces” in rounding up or silencing Mr. Liu’s supporters in China “is unprecedented” says Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

Liu's wife under house arrest

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since shortly after her husband won the prestigious prize, and forbidden to make contact with the outside world. Liu’s two brothers have been told they cannot leave the country or talk to reporters.

For the first time since 1936, when the Nazi government forbade German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky to collect his Nobel Peace Prize, there will be nobody at Friday’s ceremony to accept the gold medal and $1.4 million award.

Liu himself is serving an 11 year jail sentence for subversion because of his role in drafting “Charter 08”, a public call for democratic political reform in China. The verdict, handed down last December 25th, branded him “a major criminal.”

One Chinese activist and friend of Liu’s who plans to attend the ceremony, Wan Yanhai, can do so only because he has been in the United States for the past several months after fleeing police harassment of his AIDS support group Aizhixing.

But he is running a major risk, he says. A policeman told an Aizhixing board member last week “that if I went to Oslo I may not be able to come back home” to China, Mr. Wan said in an interview by Skype.

An open letter

While she was still allowed to communicate with friends, Liu Xia issued an open letter inviting over 100 activists and public figures to go to Oslo. Of more than 30 people on the list whom The Christian Science Monitor contacted or sought to contact this week, all but one had been disappeared, detained, threatened, followed, or otherwise harassed by the police.

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