China Holds a Grudge: China's New Visa Reforms Snub Norway

 @mflorcruzm.florcruz@ibtimes.com on December 07 2012 3:56 PM
Liu Xiaobo And Liu Xia
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia Reuters

Begining Jan. 1, China will be allowing visa-free visits to Beijing from every European country except one: Norway. 

Beijing announced this week that citizens from 45 countries will be able to enter Beijing for 72 hours without a visa at the beginning of the new year. The list, which was drawn up by China's Foreign Ministry, includes all EU nations, Switzerland, Iceland, several Latin American countries, Russia, Australia and the U.S.,  all of whose citizens will be able to enter visa-free. Even citizens of Japan, a country that China has had both historic and recent problems with, will be allowed to enter. 

So, what did Norway do to be ignored so blatantly? What's wrong between the People's Republic of China and the peaceful Nordic kingdom?

China's decision comes after a series of other penalties that seem to be China's reaction to the awarding of the 2010 Nobel peace prize to a Chinese political dissident. 

In 2010, the all-Norwegian Nobel Committee named Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize winner for, according to the website, his "long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."

To the Chinese government, Liu Xiaobo is a political dissident. After helping draft and distribute the "Chapter 08" manifesto, calling for more democracy and reform in China, he was sentenced to prison. Liu has already served three of the 11 years he was condemned to. 

Wang Qin, a senior official with the government's Travel Administration, did not specify why Norway was excluded from the visa exemption and responded by saying that some nations were not qualified, because either their citizens or governments were "low-quality" or "badly behaved."

China has not been subtle in retaliating against Norway's Nobel Committee. Visas and press card renewals for Norwegian journalists, scientists and businesspeople have been rejected by the government. 

After Liu was awarded the prize in December 2010, Beijing abandoned discussions on a bilateral free trade agreement with Oslo and have still yet to be restarted. Norway has also seen its valuable salmon imports curtailed, causing much of the product to go bad before reaching Chinese markets. In the first half of 2011, Norwegian salmon exports to China dropped 62 percent, compared to the previous year. 

Some senior Chinese diplomats were quoted earlier this year as saying Norway should "recognize its mistakes and take steps to correct them."

Norway has not reciprocated by imposing any economic sanctions or restrictions on Chinese imports or Chinese visitors, perhaps hoping, with China's new leadership selected at the Communist Party Congress last month, the two nations can resolve past issues. 

However, the visa snub suggests new President Xi Jinping will likely maintain, for now, outgoing President Hu' Jintao's stance on Norway. 

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