Nobel Head Says Liu's Prize Based On "Universal Values"

The Nobel Peace Prize panel on Thursday defended its award to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo as based on ""universal values,"" rejecting Beijing's accusation that it is trying force Western ideas on China.

China maintained its combative tone on the eve of the prize ceremony in Oslo and announced the award of its own ""Confucius Peace Prize"" to former Taiwan vice-president Lien Chan, though his office said he was unaware of the award.

China jailed Liu last Christmas Day for 11 years for subversion of state power and for being the lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for democratic reform in the one-party state.

Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told a news conference the award of the prize to Liu was not a protest.

""It is a signal to China that it would be very important for China's future to combine economic development with political reforms and support for those in China fighting for basic human rights,"" he said.

""This prize conveys the understanding that these are universal rights and universal values, they are not Western standards,"" he added.

His comments were unlikely to placate Beijing, where the Communist Party considers ""universal values"" to be code words for Western liberalization.

A day before Oslo hosts a lavish gala to formally award the Nobel to Liu, nearly 100 demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Norway to show support for the laureate, shouting ""Free Liu Xiaobo"" and ""Freedom Right Now."""