, WASHINGTON, Dec 9 – With pressure mounting on the countries planning to boycott Fridays Nobel peace prize ceremony to reconsider, US lawmakers voted overwhelming to honour the Chinese laureate Liu Xiaobo.
The Philippines confirmed on Thursday it would skip the Nobel peace prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu following pressure from China, triggering anger from human rights advocates.
Liu was sentenced in December last year to 11 years in prison on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a bold manifesto calling for democratic reform in one-party Communist-ruled China.
The decision by one of Asia\’s most vibrant democracies to stay away from the event in Norway comes as it seeks to build stronger military and economic ties with communist China.
"It is confirmed that there will be no Philippine official at the ceremony," Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya told AFP.
He said Manila\’s envoy to Oslo, Elizabeth Buencuceso, was out of Norway on an official consular mission.
"Our ambassador to Norway has a scheduling conflict," he said.
However two senior government officials who did not want to be named said the move was meant to appease China, which had repeatedly warned governments around the world that ties would be harmed if they attended the ceremony. Related article: US pressured China to release dissident: cables
Serbia too has come under mounting pressure to reconsider, for the sake of its EU integration, a decision to boycott the Nobel ceremony in order not to upset ties with China.
Its decision triggered sharp rebuke from the European Union, with lawmakers and rights activists at home calling on the pro-European government to explain. Related article: Pressure mounts on Serbia to reconsider Nobel boycott
In Brussels, EU enlargement spokeswoman Angela Filote said any country that aspired to join the bloc was expected "to fully share the values of the EU, and protection of human rights is one of (its) fundamental values."
EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele may raise the issue during a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic on Thursday, she added.
In a move sure to stoke China\’s anger, US lawmakers voted overwhelming Wednesday to honour Liu and called on Beijing to free the jailed champion of democratic reforms.
The House of Representatives approved the symbolic message by a 402-1 margin, congratulating Liu and honouring his "promotion of democratic reform in China, and the courage with which he has borne repeated imprisonment."
The measure also urged President Barack Obama — due to host his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, for a state visit next month — to keep pushing Beijing to free Liu from prison and release his wife Liu Xia from house arrest.
China reacted furiously to the decision by the Nobel Committee to award this year\’s peace prize to Liu, who was jailed for 11 years last December on subversion charges after calling for reform of one-party communist rule.
A collective of human rights groups released a joint statement Thursday calling on Beijing to release Liu. Related article: Rights groups push for Nobel laureate\’s release
"In awarding Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee has acted courageously, especially in light of Chinas growing global political influence and of the pervasive perception that no country in the world can afford to disagree with or antagonise China," the groups said.
"In addition to releasing Liu Xiaobo, we call on the Chinese government to demonstrate through its actions that it respects the rights protected by international human rights law and Chinese law," it said.
"It can begin by releasing all individuals who have been imprisoned for exercising these rights."
The statement was released by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in China, Students for a Free Tibet, Human Rights First, the International Campaign for Tibet, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Ticapitalfmnewn Youth Congress.