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Chinese Dissident Likely to Win Nobel Peace Prize

October 7, 2008

October 6, 2008

Dharamshala, October 6 -- Two Chinese dissidents are among this
year's Nobel Peace Prize nominees, prompting moves by Beijing to
counter negative publicity of its human rights record.

Oslo's International Peace Research Institute considers Gao Zhisheng
and Hu Jia as top contenders for the award which will be announced October 10.

Analysts say that a decision by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo
to honor Hu or Gao may increase tensions between the West and China.

"I hope the committee will make the right decision and not challenge
the original purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize or hurt Chinese
people's feelings," said Liu Jianchao, spokesman for China's Foreign
Ministry, on Sept. 25. The prize should go to those who "truly
contributed" to world peace, he said.

The Nobel committee may have decided against honoring Chinese
dissidents in recent years to avoid offending the government and
encourage improvements before this year's Beijing Olympics, but the
panel may see the time as ripe now that "the Olympic Games did not
bring the improvement many had hoped for," said Stein Toennesson in
an interview.

China "remains an authoritarian state that doesn't respect human
rights," Toennesson added.

Corinna-Barbara Francis, a researcher on East Asia for Amnesty
International in London, said Hu now "may well be the most prominent"
Chinese dissident.

"He's come to the attention of the international community and has
continuously been pushing the envelope in terms of human rights."

Njaal Hoestmaelingen, a researcher at the Oslo-based Norwegian Center
for Human Rights, said picking a Chinese dissident may be
counterproductive to the cause.

"The Chinese reaction may be to make such work far more difficult,
and make it more difficult for Norway and other Western countries to
collaborate with China on promoting human rights there," Hoestmaelingen added.

China became the focus of international protests in the months
leading up to the Olympics after it cracked down heavily on Tibetan
protesters in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader,
won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

This year, 33 groups and 164 individuals have been nominated, one of
the largest groups in the prize's history, said Geir Lundestad,
director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which doesn't confirm or
deny nominations.
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