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China bars foreign Nobel news

Shanghai, Dec. 9: Chinese censors apparently began blocking the news websites of CNN, the BBC and the Norwegian broadcaster, NRK, from appearing in China today, a day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is to be held in Oslo to honour Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned dissident.

The Chinese authorities denounced the decision by the Nobel committee to award this year’s prize to Liu, who is serving a 11-year prison sentence for subversion after he led a pro-democracy campaign here.

The government has sharply criticised Norway and suggested that western nations are trying to impose their values on China.

China has not said that it is intentionally blocking the news websites of the broadcasters but Chinese censors regularly black out some portion of CNN and BBC television broadcasts when sensitive political topics are covered.

This happens even though CNN, BBC and other international television channels are largely limited to five-star hotels and luxury apartments that cater to foreigners.

In recent weeks, CNN and BBC television broadcasts have repeatedly gone dark in China during news segments about the Nobel Prize being awarded to Liu, only to reappear after the segment is completed.

Beijing’s anger over the decision to make Liu the first Chinese citizen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize has seemed to intensify in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. In recent days, Beijing has pressed foreign governments to boycott the ceremony and repeatedly referred to Liu as a criminal.

As of today, 45 countries had notified the Nobel committee that they would be sending representatives to the ceremony and 19 said they would not, the committee announced at a news conference in Oslo. Two countries that previously had announced they would not attend — Ukraine and the Philippines — decided to attend instead, the committee said. It was unclear why those countries changed their minds.

Asked about China’s position, the chairman of the Nobel committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, told the news conference that the award to Liu was not meant as an insult.

“It is a signal to China that it would be very important for China’s future to combine economic development with political reforms and support for those in China fighting for basic human rights,” he said.

During a news conference at the foreign ministry in Beijing on Tuesday, a spokesman lashed out at the Nobel Committee and said the international community stands with China.

“By awarding this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to a criminal serving his sentence because of breaking Chinese law, the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s move constitutes open support of illegal criminal activities in China and flagrant interference in China’s judicial sovereignty,” the spokesman said.

“The erroneous decision not only has met with firm opposition by the entire Chinese nation, but is dismissed by the vast majority of countries upholding justice in the world.”

A spokesman at CNN, a division of Time-Warner, did not respond to requests for details about China’s apparent attempts to block its broadcasts.

BBC said on its own website that its news site was apparently being blocked in China. A spokesman for the Norwegian broadcaster NRK could not be immediately reached for comment.

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