Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights: Liu Xiaobo - Beijing coming to terms with the reality

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After having waged a high-pressure campaign to enforce a boycott of the Oslo function on December 10 to honour in absentia Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese human rights activist who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee this year, Beijing is coming to terms with the reality that its campaign has not had the expected success and that its bullying tactics to enforce a boycott has failed except in Asia. Of the 65 countries with a diplomatic presence in Oslo, only 19 have so far agreed to join the boycott. The remaining 46 have reportedly informed the Nobel Committee that they will be attending the function.

2. Embarrassed by this, Beijing has been projecting its campaign as a success. It has claimed that over 100 countries have agreed to boycott the function. In reaching this number, it has apparently included countries with no diplomatic presence in Oslo, who have not been invited and who would not have attended anyhow.

3. Having held out threats of retaliation against countries which attend the function, the Chinese are now showing signs of lowering the rhetoric. In an article carried on December 10, the party-controlled "Global Times" has said: "Shi Yinhong, a researcher at the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, said, "The 19 countries are making independent decisions on their own. It has done harm to the bilateral relations between China and Norway. But China's expressing of discontent with Norway on this specific issue does not represent the long-term direction that China will adopt toward Norway," Shi said."

4 The Chinese were till now warning of an adverse impact on China's relations with countries which attend the function. They are now practically saying: "Not necessarily". Despite the high-profile US interest in the function, the Chinese are going ahead with their plans to receive Mr.Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, in Beijing next month, thus terminating their suspension of military-military relations with the US in protest against the intended US sale of another consignment of military equipment to Taiwan.( 10-12-10)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.