BEIJING (AP) — The director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute said Tuesday that a high-ranking Chinese official warned him that giving this year's peace prize to a jailed Chinese dissident would harm relations between Norway and China.
China denied Tuesday it was pressuring the Nobel committee, although the Foreign Ministry said dissident Liu Xiaobo would be a poor choice for the peace prize.
Mr. Liu was the co-author of a document calling for stronger civil rights and an end to Communist party dominance. He was detained in 2008, and then found guilty of inciting to subvert state power. He was sentenced last December to 11 years in jail.
Geir Lundestad, who is also secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said China's Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying, requested a meeting with him when she visited Norway in June.
Ms. Fu warned him that giving the Nobel to Liu would be "an unfriendly action that would have negative consequences for the relationship between Norway and China," Mr. Lundestad told the Associated Press.
Mr. Lundestad said the Nobel committee is independent and ignores pressure to influence its decisions. The peace prize winner will be announced Oct. 8.
Ms. Fu, speaking at a press conference in Beijing about a trip by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Europe next week, said there is false talk about Chinese pressure every year.
"Every year, you report that China will apply pressure. And it's standard practice around this time of year. You often talk about the Chinese pressure issue," she said.
Before his latest sentence, Mr. Liu, a former university professor, also spent 20 months in jail for joining the 1989 student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, which ended when the government called in the military — killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of demonstrators.
China routinely uses vaguely worded subversion charges to jail people it considers troublemakers. Mr. Liu's 11-year prison sentence is the harshest penalty given for inciting subversion since the crime was introduced in 1997.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a separate press conference that Mr. Liu was a poor choice for the prize, but declined to answer questions as to what impact his nomination would have on relations between China and Norway.
"I think that his acts are completely contrary to the aspirations of the Nobel Peace Prize," Ms. Jiang said.
Mr. Lundestad said he told Ms. Fu that the committee is independent of the Norwegian government. He said giving the peace prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989 shows the Nobel committee doesn't respond to pressure from China. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to undermine its control of Tibet and is sharply critical of anyone who supports him.
"I've had many such meetings, but this is probably at the highest level," Mr. Lundestad said. "They consider this an unfriendly action which would have negative consequences for the relationship between Norway and China.
"We, of course, reject any effort to interfere in the deliberations of the Norwegian Nobel Committee."
Mr. Liu's wife, Liu Xia, said she thinks China will be able to exert enough pressure to stop her husband from getting the award.
"The Chinese government has money and power. There is nothing they cannot buy," she told AP Television News.
Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.