The Indian Ambassador to Norway will attend the ceremony of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on Friday, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

“The Indian ambassador will be at the ceremony,” committee secretary Torill Johansen told The Hindu on Tuesday over telephone from Oslo. Last week Indian officials said they were yet to take a call on a Chinese demarche asking all countries to boycott the ceremony, citing the scheduled arrival of Premier Wen Jiabao in New Delhi on December 15 as a complicating factor.

The Chinese government views Mr. Liu, a political activist, as “a criminal”. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December for “inciting subversion of state power,” after he released a document, Charter 08, calling for an end to the one-party rule and greater political freedom. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

Invitations declined

The Nobel committee said that as of Monday, 19 countries had declined invitations to the ceremony. They are China, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco.

Sri Lanka and Algeria did not reply to invitations. Ms. Johansen said the Indian, South Korean and Japanese embassies were among the 44 which had indicated they would be represented at the ceremony. The Nobel committee had been told on Tuesday that Indian Ambassador to Norway Banbit Roy would attend Friday's ceremony. Not all of the 44 representatives, she said, are ambassadors, with some countries sending lower level envoys; but India's is.

As is the practice, 65 embassies based in Norway were invited.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday strongly reiterated its criticism of the award, labelling its supporters as “clowns.” It told The Hindu in a statement last week that Beijing was opposed to any country “making anything out of the issue,” suggesting that it would view a decision by India, or any other country, to attend the ceremony as an interference in China's judicial sovereignty.

While it did not say how India's decision would affect bilateral ties, diplomats from several countries have said they were warned that attending the ceremony would damage relations. China has suspended trade negotiations with Norway over the issue. Spokesperson Jiang Yu said on Tuesday that the Nobel committee was “orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves.” She said “more than 100 countries and international organisations” had expressed support for China's stance on the prize. “This shows that the majority of international community members do not accept the Nobel committee's wrong decision,” she said. “We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

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