A fisheries meeting between Norwegian and Chinese government ministers has been canceled, the Norwegian Embassy said Monday, as the spat over the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident continued.
Norwegian Embassy spokeswoman Tone Aarvik said Monday the canceled meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday between the Norwegian Fishery Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen and a Chinese vice minister of agriculture.
She would not say who canceled it, or why and referred all other questions to Norway's Foreign Ministry in Oslo.
Beijing reacted angrily to Friday's announcement honoring Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned democracy campaigner.
China warned Norway's government that relations would suffer, even though the Nobel committee is an independent organization and not within the Norwegian government's control.
Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been placed under house arrest in Beijing, although she was taken to see her husband in prison and revealed in a Twitter message Sunday that he had been told the news on Saturday night.
Four U.N. human rights experts, Frank La Rue, El Hadji Malick Sow, Margaret Sekaggya and Gabriela Knaul, called on China Monday to immediately release Liu Xiaobo.
The independent U.N.-appointed investigators said in a statement that he was "a courageous human rights defender who has continuously and peacefully advocated for greater respect for human rights" in China.
They called on China to release Liu and "all persons detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression."
China's state-run newspapers on Monday added their voices to the government's official condemnation. Beijing has called Friday's award to Liu an "obscenity" and "blasphemy" against the Nobel prize's principles.
Some of the newspapers said the award showed a prejudiced West was afraid of China's increasing wealth and power.
"The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to 'dissident' Liu Xiaobo was nothing more than another expression of this prejudice, and behind it lies an extraordinary terror of China's rise and the Chinese model," said the Global Times, a popular Chinese-language tabloid that has led the media charge against the Nobel decision.
If Liu's calls for a multi-party democracy in China were followed, a commentary in the paper said: "China's fate would perhaps be no better than the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and the country probably would have quickly collapsed."
Liu, 54, has been a thorn in the government's side since 1989 when he joined student protesters on a hunger strike days before the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, and has been in and out of jail ever since for his campaigning for freedom of speech and political liberalisation.
No news of wife
His lawyer, Shang Baojun, told Reuters that he had been unable to contact Liu's wife, Liu Xia.
"I don't have any direct news," said Shang. "She's probably at home with communications cut off, under surveillance — she's called it house arrest," he said, citing messages circulated on the Internet.
On Friday, the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, a policy-setting council that usually meets once a year, gathers for a meeting, adding to the net of security across Beijing.
Many signers of the "Charter 08" petition which called for sweeping political reforms have either been locked away, put under house arrest or otherwise harassed, perhaps the most famous of whom is Liu, jailed last Christmas day for 11 years.
The Ta Kung Pao, a Beijing-run Hong Kong-based newspaper, dismissed the award for Liu as "black humor" that showed the Nobel Peace Prize lacked seriousness.
"This kind of Nobel Peace Prize is no better than scrap paper," it said.