Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on a rare visit to Norway, warned Oslo against granting the Nobel Peace Prize to Hong Kong pro-democracy activists much on the lines of awarding the prize to China's human rights activist Liu Xiaobo and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in the past, causing strains in bilateral ties.
Wang, who is currently on a tour of European Union countries to shore-up support for China in the face of the increasing pressure mounted by the US, is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit Oslo in 15 years.
Relations between China and the US are at an all-time low over the coronavirus pandemic and strained trade ties. The two countries also recently closed each other's consulates in Houston and Chengdu. Wang's visit comes in the backdrop of Norway preparing to take up a rotational seat on the United Nations Security Council, of which China is a permanent member.
Wang also held talks with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide on Thursday. Later, when asked during media interaction on how China would react if the Nobel prize would go to Hong Kong protesters in future, Wang said “I would only say one thing: In the past, today, and in future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China's internal affairs”.
“China is rock firm on this principle. We don't want to see anyone politicise the Nobel Peace Prize,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted him as saying. He called on Norway to cherish the current relationship, saying “If we can continue to respect each other and treat each other as equals … our bilateral relationship can continue to develop in a sustained and sound manner, and the political foundation of the bilateral relationship can be further consolidated.” Both officials stressed that this was the first visit to Norway by a Chinese foreign minister in 15 years – a subtle reference to the previously frozen diplomatic relationship between 2010 and 2016, after the Oslo-based Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded the prize to Chinese dissident Liu, the Post report said.
China was also cut up with the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989. Till 2012, the Nobel Prize was viewed with contempt by China and its official media as it was awarded to the Dalai Lama for his peaceful struggle for the betterment of Tibetans and to Liu.
However, Beijing welcomed the Nobel Prize for literature to Chinese writer Mo Yan in 2012, saying that Mo's “victory reflects the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China”. Wang's strong opposition to the Nobel Prize to the Hong Kong pro-democracy activists followed most of the EU countries cancelling extradition treaties with Hong Kong besides opening up their countries for Hong Kongers after China took direct control of the former British colony by passing a national security law which empowers Beijing to take direct control of the security and law and order, undermining the 'one country two systems' principle.
Soreide said that Norway values China's interests and concerns and is willing to discuss relevant issues with China in the spirit of mutual respect. Norway has always supported multilateralism and advocated promoting global free trade and maintaining international order. Amid rising global instability, Norway is willing to join hands with the international community, including China, to carry out more international cooperation, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The two also had an in-depth exchange of views on international and regional issues of common concern. Norway is the third leg of Wang's ongoing European tour, in which he visited Italy and the Netherlands. He will also visit France and Germany during the tour.