Beijing: China on Thursday denounced the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to dissident Liu Xiaobo as tantamount to "encouraging crime", as state media said the award was part of a Western "ideological war" against Beijing.
The comments came as China came under fresh pressure, with Norway criticising Chinese retaliatory steps over the award and Japan`s prime minister saying the jailed laureate should be freed.
"Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal. Awarding the Nobel Prize to him is equivalent to encouraging crime," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters.
Liu, 54, was sentenced last December to 11 years in jail for subversion. He was awarded the peace prize last week by Oslo`s Nobel Committee for his advocacy of political reform and human rights in one-party China.
The United States and European Union have called for his release and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan weighed in Thursday, risking Beijing`s ire just as Japan and China seek to put a damaging diplomatic spat behind them.
"From the viewpoint that universal human rights should be protected across national borders, it is desirable" Liu be released, Kan told Japan`s parliament. China broke off contacts with Tokyo last month after Japan detained a Chinese fishing boat captain whose vessel collided with Japanese coastguard ships in waters claimed by both sides in the East China Sea.
However, the two close trading partners later moved to patch up the row. Kan said he would be "watching whether he (Liu Xiaobo) will be able to attend the Nobel Prize award ceremony or whether his wife or family members will attend."
Liu`s wife, Liu Xia, has been largely confined to her Beijing home since Friday in what she has denounced as "illegal house arrest". Washington and Brussels have both appealed to China to let her move freely again.Beijing has directed most of its fury at Oslo by cancelling ministerial meetings and a Norwegian musical scheduled to be staged in the country.
Oslo on Wednesday criticised the cancellations and said Norway hoped to maintain goods relations with China. "If this decision is the consequence of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, we consider this an inappropriate reaction," Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund told AFP.
The state-run English-language Global Times newspaper said on Thursday Liu`s award was part of a Western "ideological war" against China. "They even hope that China will one day collapse under the West`s ideological crusade," said the editorial, intended for foreign audiences. The Chinese-language state press, however, has remained muted on the subject amid an information blackout on the news in China.
In a similar vein, Ma asked about the "real motives" behind leaders and governments supporting Liu`s prize. "Is it that they deep down in their hearts don`t like China`s development path? They don`t like China`s political system?" he said. Liu Xiaobo`s sentence last December was widely seen as retaliation for authoring `Charter 08` an appeal for political reform and human rights made in 2008.
China`s Communist Party maintains an iron grip on political power and its rights record is frequently criticised by foreign governments and activists at home. Dissidents and activist lawyers have been under close surveillance since the award was announced, and ahead of an annual Communist Party meeting opening Friday.
Liu Xia, meanwhile, has had her telephones cut off by authorities but has issued periodic statements on Twitter, which is blocked in China by the nation`s censors but accessible via proxy servers. "I strongly protest against the government for my illegal house arrest," Liu Xia said in a tweet on Wednesday, calling her situation "very hard to take".
Her lawyers told AFP Thursday that she remained unreachable by phone.