OSLO, Norway - China and 18 other countries have declined to attend this year's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honoring imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Nobel officials said Tuesday as China unleashed a new barrage deriding Liu's award.
Chinese officials in Beijing called Liu's backers "clowns" in an anti-Chinese farce - comments that came three days before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on Friday.
Beijing considers Liu's recognition an attack on China's political and legal system, and says the country's policies will not be swayed by outside forces in what it calls "flagrant interference in China's sovereignty."
Liu, 54, is serving an 11-year prison sentence on subversion charges brought after he cowrote a bold call for sweeping changes to China's one-party communist political system known as Charter 08.
Countries that have turned down an invitation to the ceremony include Chinese allies Pakistan, Venezuela, and Cuba; neighbors such as Russia, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan, and business partners Saudi Arabia and Iran. Also declining to attend are Ukraine, Colombia, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Serbia, and Morocco.
But at least 44 of the 65 embassies that were invited have accepted the invitation, the prize committee said. Nobel committee secretary Geir Lundestad said countries gave various reasons for not attending, but "some of them are obviously affected by China."
China, meanwhile, has come up with its own peace prize and plans to award it Thursday, the day before the Nobel Committee honors Lui in Oslo.
Named after the philosopher Confucius, the new prize was created to "interpret the viewpoints of peace of [the] Chinese [people]," the awards committee said Tuesday.
Committee chairman Tan Changliu said his group was not an official government body, but he acknowledged that it worked closely with the Ministry of Culture. He declined to give specifics on the committee, when it was created, and how the five judges were chosen.
The first honoree is Lien Chan, Taiwan's former vice president and honorary chairman of its Nationalist Party, for having "built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan."
Tan acknowledged that the new prize, which comes with a purse of 100,000 yuan ($15,000), did not have international recognition. "It needs to grow gradually," he said, "and we hope people will believe the award is of global significance."