- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — A diplomatic rift between Norway and China deepened Wednesday as Oslo asked Beijing to lift restrictions imposed on the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and China canceled a string of meetings with Norwegian officials.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Raghnild Imerslund said staff from the Norwegian Embassy in the Chinese capital tried to go to Liu Xia’s apartment on Tuesday but were “stopped by officials.”

Liu Xia has been placed under virtual house arrest since the award to her husband — a jailed Chinese dissident — was announced on Friday.

“We strongly encourage Chinese authorities to lift the house arrest and not put limitations on her freedoms,” Ms. Imerslund told the Associated Press.

The U.S. has also expressed concerns about Liu Xia’s situation.

“It is something that we are watching very closely, and we believe that her rights should be respected and she should be allowed to move freely without harassment,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored Liu Xiaobo for more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change that started with the demonstrations at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The 54-year-old literary critic is now in the second year of an 11-year prison term after being convicted of inciting subversion over his role in writing an influential 2008 manifesto for political reform.

China has been infuriated by the prize, accusing other countries of using the award to attack Beijing and warning that it won’t change the communist nation’s political course.

It also warned Norway that relations with China would suffer because of the award.

Chinese officials this week canceled two meetings with Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, who is visiting the World Expo in Shanghai.

A string of other Chinese-Norwegian events have been canceled or postponed by Beijing, Ms. Imerslund said.

A delegation from China’s Supreme Court postponed a planned visit to Norway this week, citing “immediate official tasks,” while China’s People’s Armed Police called off a planned visit altogether, she said.

Several Chinese officials, journalists and experts have dropped out of planned trip to Norway to study its welfare system, while a group of Norwegian government officials postponed a trip to China after meetings at the Chinese Foreign Ministry and with the Chinese trade minister were canceled, Ms. Imerslund said.


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