by ANDREW JACOBS and JONATHAN ANSFIELD
BEIJING — Liu Xiaobo, an impassioned literary critic, political essayist and democracy advocate repeatedly jailed by the Chinese government for his writings, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of his pursuit of nonviolent political reform in the world’s most populous country.
He is the first Chinese citizen to win the Peace Prize.
In awarding the prize to Mr. Liu, the Norwegian Nobel Committee delivered an unmistakable rebuke to Beijing’s authoritarian leaders at a time of growing intolerance for domestic dissent and spreading unease internationally over the muscular diplomacy that has accompanied China’s economic rise.
In a move that in retrospect appears to have been counterproductive, a senior Chinese official recently warned the Norwegian committee’s chairman that giving the prize to Mr. Liu would adversely affect relations between the two countries.
Although there was no immediate response to news out of Oslo, where the prize was announced, the Chinese government in recent weeks has not been shy in describing Mr. Liu as unworthy of such an accolade. “This person was sentenced to jail because he violated Chinese law,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said last week.
Liu Xia, his wife, said it unlikely her husband would immediately learn of the news because he has no access to a telephone.
The prize is enormous boost for China’s beleaguered reform movement and an affirmation of the two decades Mr. Liu has spent advocating peaceful political change in the face of unremitting hostility from the ruling Chinese Community Party. Blacklisted from academia and barred from publishing in China, Mr. Liu has been harassed and detained repeatedly since 1989, when he stepped into the drama playing out on Tiananmen Square by staging a hunger strike and then negotiating the peaceful retreat of student demonstrators as thousands of soldiers stood by with rifles at the ready.
“If not for the work of Liu and the others to broker a peaceful withdrawal from the square, Tiananmen Square would have been a field of blood on June 4,” said Gao Yu, a veteran journalist who was arrested in the hours before the tanks began moving through the city.
His most recent arrest in December of 2008 came a day before a reformist manifesto he helped craft began circulating on the Internet. The petition, entitled Charter ‘08, demanded that China’s rulers embrace human rights, judicial independence and the kind of political reform that would ultimately end the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.
“For all these years, Liu Xiaobo has persevered in telling the truth about China and because of this, for the fourth time, he has lost his personal freedom,” his wife, Liu Xia, said earlier this week.
Given his detention, it is unclear how Mr. Liu would take possession of the prize, which includes a gold medal, a diploma and the equivalent of $1.46 million.