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China Issues Nobel Peace Warning

October 14, 1999

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ China is worried the Nobel committee will award this year’s peace prize to a Chinese dissident, a move that would mar China’s 50th anniversary of communist rule.

China expressed strong concern to Norway after the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet interpreted remarks by Nobel committee secretary Geir Lundestad as a hint that a Chinese human rights activist would win the award, which will be announced Friday.

``That was a misunderstanding about what was said,″ Lundestad told The Associated Press on Thursday. ``I think everything will fall in place when the prize is announced.″

The Oslo-based peace prize committee refuses comment on possible winners. The committee did confirm that this year there were 136 candidates.

Speculation that the winner would be a Chinese dissident, such as Wei Jingsheng or Wang Dan, led to a recent flood of diplomatic contacts.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue today called Wei and Wang criminals who had plotted to overthrow the government.

``A handful of people in the West went so far as to nominate persons like this to be candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is flagrant interference in China’s internal affairs and makes a mockery of the prize,″ she said.

``If these people win the prize, that is unacceptable to the Chinese people and the Chinese government,″ she added.

China summoned the Norwegian ambassador to hear the country’s concerns after the Dagbladet story was published last weekend, Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ingvard Havnen said. China’s ambassador to Norway also had expressed concern, he said.

``They gave a very serious warning against giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident or to Taiwan’s president,″ Havnen said in a telephone interview. Nevertheless, he stressed the five-member Nobel committee works independently, and Norway cannot influence its decisions.

Such a prize would be a slap to China, often criticized for human rights abuses. China reacted furiously when the 1989 Nobel Prize went to the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, which was invaded by Chinese troops in 1950.

Lundestad said the Nobel committee had been contacted by many Chinese groups, often dissidents wanting to know whether the report was correct. He also said the committee decided this year’s winner on Sept. 29, before the flap began.

Although Norwegian news media list Wei and Wang as possible laureates, most note several possible winners and say there is no clear favorite.

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