Norway, China restore ties after Nobel Peace Prize foofaraw

Ties between the two countries became strained in 2010, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Kin Cheung/AP
A visitor looks at a photo of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, taken by his wife, Chinese artist Liu Xia, during her photo exhibition 'The Silent Strength of Liu Xia' in Hong Kong in 2012.

Norway and China have resumed ties after more than six years of tension, Norway's prime minister said Monday. 

Prime Minister Erna Solberg told lawmakers that Norway will restore cooperation with "a major world economy" following years of strained relations stemming from the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision in 2010 to award the peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident. 

Mr. Liu, a scholarly literary critic and political essayist, had received one of the most severe sentences in recent memory for the crime of "incitement to subversion of state power," as Valeria Criscione reported for The Christian Science Monitor at the time: 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Liu on Oct. 8 for his “long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” He took part in the Tianamen protests in 1989 and is a leading author of Charter 08, a manifesto published in 2008 demanding basic human rights and political reform in China.

Thorbjørn Jagland, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman, told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten today that this year’s award had already had enormous significance because it had forced all countries to take up human rights and would be perhaps one of the most important Nobel Peace Prizes ever...

China has sharply criticized the committee’s decision to give the award to a convicted person in China, saying that it showed no respect for the judicial systems of China.

"Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison for expressing his views," said Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland in explaining the award. "It was unavoidable for the committee to award him this year." 

The award was viewed as an important milestone by many human rights activists in Beijing.

"I am so very glad because we are not alone any more," Cui Weiping, a democracy advocate who teaches at the China Film Academy, told the Monitor. "Our actions are approved and supported by the whole world." 

But with the celebration came concerns that the award could provoke the government into arresting more activists. 

"In the long run ... this will encourage Chinese human rights activists to strive for democracy and freedom," said Teng Biao, Liu’s lawyer, as reported by the Monitor. He worried, however, that in the immediate future, "the government’s control over human rights issues will be even stronger." 

Following the announcement, the Chinese government did crack down on supporters of Liu, reportedly placing more than 40 individuals under house arrest in the following weeks. 

The move also had a detrimental long-term effect on China's relationship with Norway. Despite the Norwegian government having no control over the Nobel panel's choices, a bilateral trade deal was suspended, and Norwegian salmon faced restrictions in China. 

Now, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, the two countries have "reached a consensus on the normalization of ties." 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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