Six countries have declined invitations to the December 10 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the Norwegian Nobel Committee told Reuters on Thursday.
The six nations that declined are Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco, Iraq and China itself. They gave no reason for declining, said Geir Lundestad, Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the accolade.
The Nobel Committee sent invitations to 58 countries with embassies in Norway. Thirty-six accepted, while 16 had not replied by the committee's extended deadline of Thursday morning but could still reply late and attend, Lundestad said.
He said China had mounted an unprecedented campaign to sabotage participation in the awards ceremony.
"I don't know of any example where a country has so actively and directly tried to have ambassadors stay away from a Nobel ceremony," Lundestad told Reuters.
China has sent letters to foreign ministries and embassies urging diplomats to stay away from the ceremony in Oslo and warning of "consequences" for those who support the pro-democracy activist.
"China is not the only factor in this," Lundestad added. "There are always some ambassadors that don't come for some reason, and they don't have to say why."
"The big question this year is China, and how China is able to affect the decisions of others," he said. "Several countries have to check with their home governments .... This has become a delicate issue with some governments."
China returned all mail sent by the Committee unopened, Lundestad said.