2010/11/23

Poland's Walesa offers to accept Nobel for jailed Liu Xiaobo

WARSAW, November 22, 2010 (AFP) - Polish Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa offered Monday to accept this year's award on behalf of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

"I am ready to represent him, along with other Nobel laureates, to draw public attention to the fact that human rights are being violated, and that the winner of the most important prize for the struggle for freedom is being prevented from coming to collect it," Walesa told AFP in a telephone interview.

Walesa, president of Poland from 1990 to 1995, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 for his bloodless opposition to Poland's communist regime,

"Of course we'd only represent him symbolically, during the actual ceremony. The medal and diploma, and the prize money that goes with it, will remain in Oslo waiting for Liu Xiaobo," he said.

China's rulers were enraged by the decision to give the 2010 prize to Liu, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges after co-authoring a manifesto calling for political reform in China.

Walesa recalled that when he won the Nobel, he did not collect it in person at the annual award ceremony in the Norwegian capital Oslo in fear that Poland's communist rulers would bar him from returning home.

Instead, his wife Danuta represented him.

Walesa had been playing cat-and-mouse with Poland's regime, which had jailed him during a 1981 military crackdown on his Solidarity opposition movement and released him in 1982.

In 1989 talks between Solidarity and Warsaw's leadership led to an election deal that brought about the regime's peaceful demise and helped speed the end of communist rule in Europe.