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An Empty Chair Is Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

The Chinese government is the first since the Nazis to prevent anyone from accepting the award.

While it has been clear for some time that China would not let Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo out of prison to accept his prize, there was some thought that perhaps his wife would be able to attend. Today, however, the prize was given out to no one, marking the first time that the recipient or a family member has not accepted the award since Count Carl von Ossietzky won while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. China is in excellent company. Which is not even to mention the 19 countries that chose to not send representatives to the ceremony, like Russia, North Korea, and Burma.

Of Xiaobo's absence, the chairmen of the Nobel committee noted: “This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate.”

China has been exerting intense pressure on countries not to attend the ceremony, and apparently spent yesterday arresting other authors of Liu's controversial human rights document, Charter '08, so that protests could not coalesce around the over the weekend. They will, apparently, be freed on Sunday.

President Obama said:

“We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty, and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want. But Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law.”


Amusing sidenote: The winners of China's new anti-Nobel Confucius Peace Award were also absent from their ceremony.

Image by Toby Melville/Reuters

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