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On eve of Nobel ceremony, China cracks down and lashes out

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony Dec. 10 will mark only the second time in history that neither the winner nor a family member will be able to come to accept the award.

One cafe owner, who asked not to be quoted by name, was called to the local police station in the Gulou, or Drum Tower, area, and warned that "overseas reactionary forces" might try to "instigate" some actions on Friday night.

Seeking to discredit the Nobel prize, a previously unknown group with links to China's ministry of culture held a hastily called ceremony in a hotel Thursday to award the first "Confucian Peace Prize," which the organizers said was a response to the Nobel being awarded to Liu.

The winner of the Confucian Peace Prize was Taiwanese former vice president Lien Chan, who the group said beat out Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former South African president Nelson Mandela, among others.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 402 to 1 on Wednesday for a resolution praising Liu Xiaobo. At a regularly scheduled briefing Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the U.S. resolution "confuses right and wrong, and flagrantly interferes in China's internal affairs."

Jiang said American lawmakers should "change their arrogant and unreasonable attitude."

China's foreign ministry has boasted that the peace prize has been discredited because a large number of countries agree with China and will boycott the ceremony. So far, China has listed 18 other countries not attending, including fellow Communist regimes Cuba and Vietnam; Arab monarchies and authoritarian regimes including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia; and China's allies Venezuela, Pakistan, Sudan, and neighboring Russia and Kazakhstan. Iran, Colombia and Ukraine also said their ambassadors will not attend.

The biggest surprise on the no-show list was the Philippines, whose newly elected president, Benigno Aquino III, is the son of the slain opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr.

Aquino Jr. was a political prisoner during the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. The current president's mother, Corazon C. Aquino, was elected president and became known as an icon of democracy.

The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch sharply criticized the Philippines' decision.

Washington Post researchers Liu Liu in Beijing and Wang Juan in Shanghai contributed to this report.


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