Washington: An empty chair will represent jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at his Nobel Peace Prize ceremony unless Beijing allows him or his wife to attend, a friend said on Friday.
Yang Jianli, a prominent Chinese democracy activist who is coordinating between the Nobel committee and dissidents, said all sides would keep pressing China to free wife Liu Xia from house arrest and let her travel to Oslo.
But if not, the Nobel committee is prepared to make the unprecedented gesture of setting a single empty chair on the stage during the December 10 ceremony, Yang said.
"An empty seat for the laureate would serve as a reminder to the world that Liu Xiaobo is himself languishing in prison and, more broadly, that the human rights situation in China should be a concern to the international community," Yang said.
Yang, a student activist during the crushed Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989, himself spent five years in prison and now lives in Boston. He is close to both Liu Xiaobo and his wife.
Yang said that Liu told his wife in their sole encounter after the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize that he wanted her to accept the award on his behalf.
"That is obviously his wish so we will not give up his efforts," Yang said.
A Norwegian actress would also read from Yang's writings at the ceremony, Yang said. Yang, along with dozens of other Chinese democracy activists in exile, plans to travel to Oslo for the ceremony.
With neither Liu nor any of his close relatives able to attend, the Nobel peace prize will not be handed over during the ceremony for only the second time in its history.
The last time that happened was in 1936. Radical pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, awarded the Peace Prize in 1935, could not attend the ceremony because he was interned in a Nazi concentration camp. He died three years later in a hospital, under surveillance by authorities, of health problems related to his incarceration.
In obscure circumstances, a German lawyer showed up and pocketed his prize.
Myanmar democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest when she won the prize in 1991 but her teenage sons, who are half British, accepted on her behalf.
The junta in Myanmar, also known as Burma, freed Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month, leaving Liu as the only detained Nobel laureate.
First Published: Saturday, November 27, 2010, 09:31