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Jailed Chinese dissident awarded Nobel prize

December 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
For the first time in 74 years, the Nobel Peace Prize could not be handed out.But ambassadors, royalty and dignitaries in Oslo, Norway, still gave this year's winner, imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a standing ovation.

His medal and diploma were placed on an empty chair to mark his absence.

Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence at Jinzhou Prison in northeastern China for urging sweeping changes to Beijing's one-party communist political system.

Xiaobo's suporters, including his wife, were even placed under house arrest in China to prevent them from picking up the presitigious, $1.4 million award.

"Somehow the award becomes larger in his absence," said actor and activist Richard Gere. "That empty chair is far more eloquent than his physical presence. I think it speaks to the reality of the situation in China right now."

Gere was among the activists standing at the United Nations in support of Xiaobo.

China calls the award an attack on its political and legal system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.