China rejects Norway Nobel peace overtures

China on Monday rejected the Norwegian foreign minister's call to restore the political dialogue put on ice by Beijing after the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

China rejects Norway Nobel peace overtures
Liu Xiaobo; Jonas Gahr Støre

In a statement published in Norwegian financial daily Dagens Næringsliv (DN) Monday, China's embassy in Oslo blamed the Norwegian government for supporting the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to give the prestigious prize to "a Chinese criminal."

This, the embassy insisted, "constitutes contempt for China's judiciary independence and interference in China's internal affairs, thus causing great damages to the bilateral relations".

"We expect that the Norwegian side will make tangible efforts to restore and develop the bilateral relations," it added.

When contacted by AFP, the embassy confirmed the statement was authentic.

On October 11th, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had insisted it was "unnatural and untenable" that political dialogue between the two countries remained halted, calling on Beijing to turn the page.

"We now have to use our energy to look to the future. The road forward should be that we resume political dialogue between the two countries," he told DN at the time.

China halted all high-level political relations with Norway after the Norwegian Nobel Committee on October 8th, 2010 announced the Peace Prize would go to Chinese dissident and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, whom Beijing considers a criminal and who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for "subversion".

Beijing also suspended talks with Oslo on a free trade pact and has ordered such strict and time-consuming veterinary controls on Norwegian salmon that fresh fish has ended up rotting in Chinese warehouses, plunging exports to the Asian giant into freefall.

Norwegian business leaders have also reported running into increased difficulties on the massive Chinese market.

Støre's peace offering was met with criticism by a section of the right-leaning opposition that claimed it contained an element of misplaced apology, as human rights abuses continue in China and the Nobel Committee's prize decisions are completely independent of Norway's government and parliament.

While political dialogue has been halted, bilateral trade — excluding salmon — has meanwhile soared, with Chinese imports from Norway rising 16 percent in the first half of the year and its exports to the Scandinavian country leaping 43 percent in the same period.

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