Clapping solemnly, dignitaries in Norway celebrated this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, with an empty chair.
Friday’s ceremony was the first time in 74 years the prestigious $1.4 million award was not handed over, because Liu is serving an 11-year sentence in China on subversion charges for urging sweeping changes to Beijing’s one-party communist political system.
China was infuriated when the 54-year-old literary critic won, describing the award as an attack on its political and legal system. Authorities have placed Liu’s supporters, including his wife Liu Xia, under house arrest to prevent anyone from picking up his prize.
In Beijing, both CNN and BBC TV went black at 8 p.m. local time, exactly when the Oslo ceremony was taking place. Security outside Liu’s apartment in Beijing was heavy and several dozen journalists were herded away by uniformed police to a cordoned-off area.
The last time a Nobel Peace Prize was not handed out was in 1936, when Adolf Hitler prevented German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky from accepting his award.