(AFP) – May 4, 2011
OSLO — China is demanding an apology from Norway before agreeing to restore relations soured when dissident Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace prize, Beijing’s ambassador was quoted Wednesday as saying. (AFP photo: Demonstrators hold a portrait of Liu Xiaobo demanding his release in Taipei in 2010)
Chinese ambassador in Oslo Tang Guoqiang made the remarks during a gathering last weekend at the Confucius Institute, a body promoting Chinese language and culture, in Bergen, participants told AFP.
“He demanded an apology from the Norwegian government,” said Dan Femoen, a local official in the western city who was at the gathering.
“He said that trade between the two countries was not impossible but that it was more difficult given that an apology over the Nobel Peace prize did not appear to have been made,” he said.
Fellow participant Marit Warncke, director of Bergen’s Chamber of Commerce, appeared to confirm the ambassador’s remarks, saying that he said his country “was waiting” for an official apology from Norway.
“What the ambassador said was that relations between China and Norway are very difficult at the moment and that the whole of China was hurt by its awarding of the prize,” she said.
The decision by the Nobel prize committee, made up of five independent panelists selected by Norway’s parliament, strained ties with China which considers recipient Liu Xiaobo, currently in jail, a “criminal.”
China responded by cancelling political dialogue with Norway and suspended talks on a free trade pact. Norwegian firms reported problems doing business in China.
The Norwegian government gave a careful response Wednesday.
“We have noted Chinese authorities’ reaction to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, an award that is made independently of the Norwegian Government,” said foreign affairs spokeswoman Marte Lerberg Kopstad in an email to AFP.
“The Norwegian Government believes that it is in the best interest of both countries to maintain a good relationship and continue to cooperate in areas of mutual interest. From the Norwegian side, we are working to enhance the relationship and hope to make advances in this regard.”
No one from the Chinese embassy was available for a comment.
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