France opens sensitive question: who should attend Nobel ceremony honoring Liu Xiaobo
A Foreign Ministry official told the Monitor that a meeting in Brussels will center on whether it is appropriate to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honoring jailed laureate Liu Xiaobo, and, if so, who exactly should go.
France will hold a meeting in Brussels to develop a common European position on whether or not states should attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese reformer Liu Xiaobo – and whether European states, if they go, should be represented by their ambassadors, or if lower-level diplomats should be present instead.Skip to next paragraph
The French initiative follows a visit to Europe, including Paris, by Chinese President Hu Jintao. It also follows a warning letter from China to European ambassadors in Norway, requesting them not to attend the Dec. 10 Nobel ceremony in Oslo.
China’s G20 negotiator Cui Tiankai last week said states that attend the award ceremony honoring Mr. Liu must be ready to “accept the consequences.” Liu is currently serving an 11-year sentence in China for “subversion” in co-authoring “Charter ‘08," a manifesto promoting basic human rights and political reform.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French RTL radio this morning that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr. Hu discussed human rights on top of signing $20 billion in trade deals. Mr. Kouchner added that, “I hope France will be represented at the prize-giving ceremony in spite of Beijing's warnings,” but said France would be “consulting its European friends for a common response.”
A French Foreign Ministry official separately told the Monitor that an upcoming meeting in Brussels will center on two questions: whether it is appropriate to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony, and if so, “whether ambassadors should attend, or should it be at the level of charges d’affaires."
“We have weeks and weeks to decide this,” the Foreign Ministry official said adding that a Brussels meeting is set to take place in coming days.
Common ground, or a climb-down from European principles?
It is not clear whether France has decided Europe does not have a common-enough position on the Nobel award to Liu – or whether it is pausing, or bending, to Chinese requests in the wake of Hu’s visit.
Michael Davis, law professor at the University of Hong Kong and a human rights specialist, argues that it would be “a huge climb down” for European nations to bend to China’s threat – and would “implicate their own [European] principles.”