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'Give China Nobel Prize': Norway's richest man

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'Give China Nobel Prize': Norway's richest man
Stien Erik Hagen at the Orkla General Meeting in April. Photo: Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/Orkla
08:17 CEST+02:00
Norway's richest man has called for China to get the Nobel Peace Prize, fuelling the controversy over the Norwegian government's refusal to meet the Dalai Lama.
Stein Erik Hagen, who made his $5.3bn family fortune through his retail and food groups Rimi, Orkla, and Jernia, said that China success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty madeit a deserving winner. 
 
"China is constantly evolving and is about to become the world's economic superpower," he told Norway's VG newspaper. "They are creating a country that is bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. It is an achievement that qualifies for the Nobel Peace Prize." 
 
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, will receive no welcome from the Norwegian government when he  arrives in Norway today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of winning the prize. 
 
Norway's Foreign Minister Børge Brende has openly admitted that this is because the economic and diplomatic price of meeting ta man who remains a potent symbol of Tibetan resistance against China's 64-year occupation, is simply too great. 
 
Hagen argued that refusing to meet the Dalai Lama would ultimately be to Tibet's benefit. 
 
"It is more important to have a good relationship with the giant China than to give politically correct support for Tibet," he said. "By getting a better relationship with China, we can better help Tibet." 
 
Norway has been frozen out by China diplomatically ever since the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is independent of the Norwegian government, awarded the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident, in 2010. 
 
According to NRK, the Chinese government is now seeking a guarantee from Norway that it will never in future congratulate a dissident Chinese prize winner as the price for normalizing diplomatic and economic relations. 
 
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Tuesday told NRK that there is no guarantee that Norway's Prime Minister will congratulate all future prize winners, leading to suspicions that this guarantee has already been given behind closed doors. 
 
This is not the first time Hagen has backed giving the prize to China. Three and a half years ago he supported Morits Skaugen, a Norwegian shipowner who advocated giving China the prize in an article in Aftenposten.
 
The billionaire this year became Norway's richest man in a list drawn up by the US's Forbes Magazine, after the real estate mogul Olav Thon put his fortune into trust. 
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