Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the Global Times Tuesday that China has canceled two meetings with Norwegian Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, as analysts say this is sign of Beijing's protest against the Nobel Peace Committee's decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese prisoner.
The Oslo-based committee announced Friday that it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to 54-year-old Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence after being convicted in December of agitation aimed at subverting the government.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu is disrespectful to the country's judicial system, also noting that it would not influence the direction of China's political system.
"We already made our position clear. Since the reform and opening up, China has made remarkable progress," said Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for China's foreign ministry. "By giving a convicted person the Nobel Peace Prize, they show no respect for China's judicial system."
"We regret the decision of the cancellation the meetings," Ragnhild Imerslund, a spokeswoman of the Norwegian foreign ministry, told the Global Times. "Cooperation in the sector of fisheries is important for both countries."
Berg-Hansen, who arrived in Shanghai on Monday to visit the World Expo, was scheduled to meet with the Chinese vice minister of fisheries Tuesday and then with officials of China's Ad-ministration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine today in Beijing.
"China's cancellation of the meetings is to express its protest and discontent to Norway since the peace committee's decision hurt relations between China and Norway," said Yang Mian, a professor of international communications at the Communication University of China.
China had warned that awarding the prize to Liu would damage ties between Beijing and Oslo, as it violates the principles of the prize and discredits it.
"If it is the case that the cancellations of the meetings is a reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's decision, this is unnecessary, as the committee is independent," Imerslund said.
Although Norway has insisted that the Peace Prize Committee operates independently of the government, five members of the committee have been appointed by the Norwegian Parliament for six-year terms. Norway's government also congratulated Liu on Friday for winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
Imerslund said China's decision to cancel meetings with the Norwegian official shouldn't affect relations between the two countries.
Norway has a lot at stake if the bilateral ties sour. It is targeting increasing sales of salmon to China by 62 percent to 30,000 tons in 2012, Bloomberg reported.
Total seafood exports to China had risen 50 percent to about 1.5 billion kroner ($260 million) through September, making it the eighth-largest market, a report by the Norwegian Seafood Export Council said.
Statoil, two-thirds owned by the Norwegian government, has a cooperation agreement with Sinopec to explore opportunities in the South China Sea and a separate deal with Sinochem involving offshore drilling in Brazil, the Financial Times reported.
Statoil would not speculate on whether it would be hurt by fallout from the prize, according to the report.
But according to Bloomberg, the effect on Norway's main export, crude oil, may be limited as China accounted for less than 1 percent of Norway's exports through August. China imported 188,000 tons of crude oil (1.5 million barrels) in the first eight months of 2010, the Bloomberg report said, citing statistics.
China has canceled planned performances of a musical starring Alexander Rybak, the Norwegian winner of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, Thomas Stanghelle, a Norwegian composer, said Tuesday.
The 200-strong troupe in the opera musical, Some Sunny Night were expected to be performed in early November in Beijing and Wuhan.