The Chinese government has long used the accusation of “meddling in internal affairs” against anyone who criticizes its human rights record. Usually though the attack is made and the speaker moves on.
Now, however, it really seems as if everyone in the foreign policy and propaganda mechanism in China have gone off their meds.
And it all started when free speech advocate Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since the announcement, the Chinese government has not only pulled out the old canard of “meddling” against the Nobel Committee, it has called the prize “an anti-China farce” and its sponsors “clowns.” And this is often done not just behind the fake names in a People’s Daily commentary. It is done by the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman at the ministry’s regular press briefings.
The foreign ministry has also said that honoring Mr. Liu is “a crazy act,” “a political tool” and “a trick that a few radical people use to entertain themselves.”
The government has dispatched notices to all the embassies in Oslo that any government sending representatives to the Peace Prize award ceremony would find themselves in deep deep trouble with China.
The trade ministry canceled trade missions to Norway and Sweden as a result of the award.
The propaganda arm of the government/party has also been working overtime.
Since the Oct. 15 announcement by the Nobel Committee Xinhua has called the Nobel decision “a desecration of the rule of law.” At every opportunity the state-run media run stories about how Liu is a convicted criminal serving 11 years. The reports then add that Mr. Liu is an opportunist who tries “his best to maintain the Western hegemony of his Western masters and make China a vassal of the West.”
And of course, all of this started just one week after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Fareed Zakaria that China needs more freedom of speech and expression in order to progress. Needless to say, those CNN interviews are not available online in China.
And in an interesting sidebar: Seems some of the WikiLeaks cables from China show that the U.S. government has been monitoring and commenting on the Liu situation for some time: China Resisted U.S. Pressure on Rights of Nobel Winner
Dozens of leaked State Department cables made it apparent that American diplomats closely followed the travails of Mr. Liu and other activists and regularly pressed Chinese officials to honor international norms for basic freedoms, even as Washington muted its public position on Chinese behavior.
Embassy officials also met frequently with Mr. Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, and friends to monitor his case and the increase in repression of political dissidents.
As early as two weeks after Mr. Liu was first detained, President George W. Bush’s ambassador, Clark T. Randt Jr., “urged the Chinese government to release him and stop harassing peaceful dissidents,” a Dec. 29, 2008, cable stated.