Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Friday.
updated 10/9/2010 4:11:40 AM ET 2010-10-09T08:11:40

The world's newest Nobel Peace Prize winner remained unreachable in a Chinese prison Saturday, while his wife's mobile phone was cut off and the authoritarian government continued to censor reports about democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo's honor.

Police kept reporters away from the prison where Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, and his lawyer said that Liu's wife — who had been hoping to visit him Saturday and tell him the news of the award — has "disappeared" and he is worried she may be in police custody.

Chinese authorities, who called Liu a criminal shortly after his award Friday and said his winning "desecrates the prize," sank Saturday into official silence.

Only an editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper spoke out Saturday, saying in English, "Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed. On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself."

The paper's Chinese-language edition called the award "an arrogant showcase of Western ideology" and said it disrespected the Chinese people.

  1. Related content
    1. Obama to China: Free Nobel Prize dissident
    2. Governments and activists react to Liu's Peace Prize
    3. Mosquito traps to TVs: A look at China's export machine
    4. Nobel Peace Prize winner a tireless campaigner
    5. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize citation

But one Chinese newspaper cartoonist, Kuang Biao, posted an image on his blog Friday of a Nobel prize medal behind bars.

In naming Liu, the Norwegian-based Nobel committee honored his more than two decades of advocacy for human rights and peaceful democratic change — from the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989 to a manifesto for political reform that he co-authored in 2008 and which led to his latest jail term.

President Barack Obama, last year's peace prize winner, called for Liu's immediate release.

  1. Most popular

'We are all worried'
But there was still no word from the winner himself. The mobile phone of his wife, Liu Xia, was turned off Saturday as she was expected to be en route with police to the prison to meet her husband.

"She's disappeared. We're all worried about them," Liu's lawyer, Shang Baojun, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

He said even Liu Xia's mother had been unable to reach her.

Liu's wife's freedom of movement had been shrinking since the eve of the Nobel announcement when, she said, police came to her apartment to try to get her out of Beijing, offering her a prison visit with Liu.

She wanted to stay for the announcement and planned to hold an impromptu news conference with reporters. But police would not let her leave the apartment and on Friday night, she said she was negotiating terms to visit Liu on Saturday and tell him the news.

Police often force political critics, religious dissenters and sometimes their family members to leave Beijing ahead of sensitive anniversaries, often putting them up in guesthouses and keeping them out of the way for days and weeks.

Beth Schwanke with the Washington-based Freedom Now, an organization that serves as Liu's international counsel, said, "We're very concerned that the government might use this as a pretext for detaining her."

Liu's wife has said she hopes to go to Norway to collect the Nobel medal and its prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.5 million), if he cannot.

Two years into an 11-year jail term at the prison 300 miles from Beijing, the slight, 54-year-old literary critic was not expected to find out about the award until the meeting with his wife.

Release unlikely
Shang said it was not likely that winning the prize would have any big effect on Liu's prison sentence.

"Unless (President) Hu Jintao signs some sort of special order ... but there's no precedent for that," the lawyer said.

In past years, China would release certain dissidents after international pressure, but not because they won major awards.

Liu is the first peace prize winner chosen while serving a criminal prison sentence, although several laureates, including Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) and German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky (1935) were in custody without a legal trial.

  1. Only on NBCNews.com
    1. OWN via Getty Images
      From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
    2. pool via Reuters file
      US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
    3. China: One-child policy is here to stay
    4. NRA: Practice Range
      New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
    5. 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
    6. AFP - Getty Images
      China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
    7. AFP - Getty Images
      French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali

Still others, like Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov (1975) and Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa (1983), were prevented by their governments from going to Norway to accept the prize.

The government arrested Liu in December 2008, hours before he released a document named Charter 08 that called for greater freedoms and for the Communist Party to give way to gradual, democratic change.

In announcing the peace prize Friday, the Nobel committee issued a challenge to China to live up to its responsibilities as the world's second-largest economy and a burgeoning diplomatic and military power.

Liu had been virtually unknown among ordinary Chinese. University students in Beijing were wrestling Friday night with a mix of pride and suspicion over the award.

Students on the online bulletin board of China's top university were asking angrily how someone in prison could win the peace prize, said Peking University student Yang Yuan.

"But then I thought about it — wasn't Mandela in prison?" Yang said. "So I just don't know about this."

South Africa's Nelson Mandela was actually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three years after his release from prison. He shared the prize with then-South African leader F.W. de Klerk for their efforts to bring racial reconciliation.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Chinese prisoner awarded Nobel Peace Prize

  1. Closed captioning of: Chinese prisoner awarded Nobel Peace Prize

    >>> this year's nobel peace prize was awarded to a man who will not be able to accept it in person. that's because he's serving 11 years in a chinese prison for subversion, advocating free speech and democracy there. he's perhaps china's best known disside dissident. the nobel committee cited his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights . the chinese government criticized the award saying it runs completely counter to the principles of the prize.

Explainer: Nobel Peace Prize winners: Past and present

  • Image: Mother Teresa
    Eddie Adams  /  AP
    Portrait of Mother Teresa, head of the Missionaries of Charity order, as she cradles an armless baby girl at her order's orphanage in Calcutta, India, in 1978.

    Mother Teresa. Nelson Mandela. Barack Obama.

    They're just a few of the peacemakers chosen for the world's most coveted award, given out yearly since 1901.

    The prerequisite for winning the Nobel Peace Prize: making a difference.

    The prize lauds people for their work in a wide range of fields including human rights, mediation of international conflicts, arms control and the world's environment.

    Each laureate takes home a shiny gold medal and at least $1 million. They use the money to further their cause, whether it's building new hospitals or schools for the poor or funding research.

    Here's a brief look at some laureates.

    Sources: The Associated Press and Reuters

  • Who were the contenders?

  • Image: Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo
    Family photo via Reuters file
    Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is the front-runner to win the 2010 Nobel Peace, according to Norwegian TV reports.

    The other contenders for the 2010 prize, won by Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, above, were:

    * The European Union and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

    * Afghan women's rights campaigner Sima Samar

    * Chinese Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer

    * Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

    * The International Criminal Court

    * The Democratic Voice of Burma, an Oslo-based radio and television station that beams in news to military-ruled Myanmar

    * Argentine rights group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo

  • 'Call to action'

  • Image: President Obama
    Jason Reed  /  Reuters
    President Barack Obama donated his prize money to charity.

    Name: Barack Obama, president of the United States
    Year: 2009
    Reason: Efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world and scale down a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

    Obama expressed surprise at the prize, saying he was humbled and would accept it as a "call to action" to work with other nations to solve the problems of the 21st century.

    Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said their choice could be seen as an early vote of confidence in Obama intended to build global support for his policies. They lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.

    Obama donated his prize to charity, White House officials said.

  • 'World champion'

    Image: Martti Ahtisaari
    Bernd Settnik  /  EPA file
    Finnish former president and peace broker Martti Ahtisaari.

    Name: Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland
    Year: 2008
    Reason: Efforts to build a lasting peace in places as diverse as East Timor and the Balkans in Europe.

    "He is a world champion when it comes to peace and he never gives up," Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel awards committee, told The Associated Press.

    The honor was in line with recent Nobels to other peace mediators, notably Jimmy Carter in 2002 and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001, he said.

  • Climate change

  • Al Gore
    Jeff Chiu  /  AP file
    Former Vice President Al Gore

    Name: Environmental activist and former Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    Year: 2007
    Reason: Awarded for sounding the alarm over global warming and spreading awareness on how to counteract it.

    "His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change," the Nobel citation said. "He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

    It cited Gore's awareness at an early stage "of the climatic challenges the world is facing."

  • Making a difference

  • Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images file
    Professor Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh.

    Name: Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi economist and founder of Grameen Bank.
    Year: 2006
    Reason: Lauded for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans — microcredit — to lift millions out of poverty.

    Through his efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately need to get ahead.

  • Arms control

  • Image: Mohamed ElBaradei
    Rudi Blaha  /  AP file
    IAEA director Mohamed El Baradei.

    Name: The International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei
    Year: 2005
    Reason: Their drive to curb the spread of atomic weapons by using diplomacy to resolve standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

    The Nobel Committee’s decision backed negotiations and inspections, not military action, as the best way to handle volatile nations. It also was seen as a message to the Bush administration, which invaded Iraq after claiming U.N. efforts to eradicate Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions had failed and which opposed ElBaradei’s appointment to another term.

  • Environmentalist

  • Kenyan Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai.
    Gianluigi Guercia  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Kenyan Nobel peace prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai.

    Name: Wangari Maathai
    Year: 2004
    Reason: Selected for her role in founding the Green Belt Movement, which has sought to empower women, improve the environment and fight corruption in Africa for nearly 30 years.

    Maathai was the first African woman and first Kenyan to win. Maathi, who also was the 12th woman to be honored, warned that the world remained under attack from disease, deforestation and war, and she urged new approaches to solving those problems.

  • Activist

  • Ebadi
    Francois Mori  /  AP
    Iranian lawyer and activist Shirin Ebadi.

    Name: Shirin Ebadi
    Year: 2003
    Reason: Received the honor for her efforts in democracy and human rights.

    Iran's first female judge led the country's struggle for women's and children's rights. She is best known for defending persecuted Iranians and has braved reprisals for her work and beliefs.

  • 'Untiring effort'

  • Image: Jimmy Carter
    Roberto Schmidt  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

    Name: Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president
    Year: 2002
    Reason: Honored for his pursuit of peace, health and human rights.

    The Nobel Committee applauded Carter's "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

    His peace work started with the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt.

  • Global peace

    Stuart Ramson  /  AP file
    Kofi Annan.

    Name: United Nations and Kofi Annan
    Year: 2001
    Reason: Praised the international organization and its secretary general for working for human rights, fighting HIV/AIDS and terrorism, and attempting to defuse global conflicts.

  • Famous winners

  • Image: Rev Martin Luther King Jr.
    The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Among other famous winners:

    1906: President Theodore Roosevelt for his treaty between Russia and Japan.

    1919: Woodrow Wilson, U.S. president and founder of the League of Nations.

    1964: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, campaigner for civil rights.

    1973: Henry Kissinger, U.S. secretary of state, and Le Duc Tho, North Vietnam, who declined the prize. Jointly negotiated the Vietnam peace accord in 1973.

    1979: Mother Teresa, leader of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity.

    1983: Lech Walesa, Poland, founder of Solidarity, campaigner for human rights.

    1989: The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, for his religious and political leadership of the Tibetan people.

    1990: Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, helped to bring the Cold War to an end.

    1991: Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader and human rights advocate in Myanmar.

    1993: Nelson Mandela, former South African president.

    1994: Yasser Arafat, Palestine, PLO leader; Shimon Peres, Israeli foreign minister; and Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli prime minister. The three were lauded for efforts to settle the conflict in the Middle East.

  • Trivia

  • Image: Mahatma Gandhi
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    circa 1935: Indian spiritual and political leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    No Gandhi? Why?: Mohandas Gandhi was nominated in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and, finally, a few days before he was assassinated in January 1948.

    The omission has been publicly regretted by the Nobel Committee; when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was "in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi." However, the committee has never commented on the speculation as to why Gandhi was not awarded the prize.

    Embarrassing moments: How about a few candidates the Nobel committee has managed to avoid: Adolf Hitler, nominated in 1939 by a Swedish legislator and withdrawn the same year; Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, nominated in 1945 by a Norwegian former foreign minister and in 1948 by a Czech professor; Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who got two nominations in 1935, by a French law professor and a German college law faculty member.

    The first ones: Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, shared the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 with Frédéric Passy, a leading international pacifist of the time.

    America brings one home: Twenty-two Americans have won the Nobel Prize for Peace since its introduction in 1901, including two standing presidents - Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson - and one former president, Jimmy Carter.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments