2010/10/08

China blocks news of peace prize for dissident

BEIJING, October  8, 2010 (AFP) - News that jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize quickly made headlines around the world Friday, but in China the award was hard to find on TV and major Internet sites.

China's official Xinhua news agency carried news of the prize in English and Chinese -- by headlining the government's angry reaction to it.

But searches using the key words "Nobel Peace Prize" and "Liu Xiaobo" brought up no results on Chinese web portals Sina, Sohu and Baidu while similar searches on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, also drew a blank.

The evening news on China Central Television made no mention of Liu, opening instead with a story about flooding on the southern island of Hainan as foreign news outlets splashed the story across the front pages of their websites.

Text messages sent containing the full name of Liu Xiaobo appeared to be blocked, according to several tests carried out by AFP correspondents.

Liu, a writer and one-time university professor, was honoured "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China," Norwegian Nobel Committee president Thorbjoern Jagland said in his announcement.

Beijing slammed the decision as a violation of the Nobel Peace Prize's ideals, while the laureate's joyful wife led calls for his immediate release.

China -- which has repeatedly branded the 54-year-old a criminal following his December 2009 jailing for 11 years on subversion charges -- also warned Norway that ties would suffer over the Nobel committee's decision.

Beijing operates a vast system of web censorship, sometimes referred to as the "Great Firewall of China". It blocks access to any content the government deems unacceptable, ranging from pornography to political dissent.

Critics at home and abroad complain that the Internet rules stifle criticism of the ruling Communist Party and restrict discussion on sensitive topics such as Tibet and the brutal crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.