Hague risks Chinese anger by honouring Nobel winner

By Peter Wozniak

William Hague has used the occasion of international human rights day to praise imprisoned Nobel prize-winner Liu Xiaopo, despite China making a concerted effort to discredit the ceremony.

The Nobel committee has named pro-democracy campaigner Liu – currently serving an 11-year jail term for “subverting” China’s “democratic dictatorship and socialist system” – the winner of the prestigious award.

The foreign secretary reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to human rights, saying: “We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience, and we cannot achieve long term security and prosperity unless we uphold our values.

“We have to be resolute and determined in standing up for those who are denied the rights and freedoms we enjoy, while striving to be an inspiring example of them ourselves.”

But in a statement likely to earn the ire of Beijing, he added: “We remember in particular Liu Xiaopo who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but is imprisoned in China, and we call again for his release.”

A number of countries boycotted the peace prize ceremony in Oslo under Chinese pressure, while there were reports of growing intimidation and restrictions within the country to block Western media – including the BBC website – and prevent anyone travelling to collect the award on Mr Liu’s behalf.

The news comes after David Cameron’s visit to China last month, where he came under criticism from some quarters for prioritising building new trade relations ahead of raising Beijing’s human rights record, especially in the matters of Tibet and Mr Liu’s imprisonment.

In his statement today, Mr Hague also highlighted the plight of 2,200 “prisoners of conscience” in Burma.

The foreign secretary unsurprisingly had harsh words for the regime in Tehran as well, adding: “We call on Iran to cease its harassment, intimidation and imprisonment of human rights defenders, and we call for justice for Nasrin Sotoudeh and others who share a similar plight.

“Britain will raise these and other cases with governments around the world, ensuring that human rights are woven deeply into our foreign policy. Pursuing our enlightened national interest, we will remain true to our values while standing up for our own citizens.”