SHANGHAI -- China's pique with Norway for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo apparently knows no bounds.
There is now a widespread rumour that China somehow fixed this past weekend's Miss World contest to ensure the front-runner, 23-year-old Norwegian Mariann Birkedal, did not place among the top five finalists.
Birkedal was the perfect diplomat when reporters asked her if politics accounted for her loss.
"I have been very careful with speculating about that myself," she said.
"It is kind of stupid to start thinking that if this or that had not occurred I would perhaps have been Miss World 2010. I do believe everything happens out of a reason."
In advance of the Miss World contest in Sanya, on China's tropical Hainan Island, bookmakers placed the Norwegian beauty as odds-on favourite, so many were shocked when the 18-year-old American Alexandria Mills walked away with the crown.
Birkedal's loss follows the cancellation earlier in the month of the invitation to Norwegian Eurovision Song Contest winner Alexander Rybak to perform in Beijing this week.
Along with a cast of Norwegian and Chinese actors, Rybak was supposed to take the stage for three nights in the premier of the opera Some Sunny Night.
The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported the opera's composer Thomas Stanghelle said the Chinese claimed it "wasn't possible" for them to co-operate with Norway or Norwegian artists at present. He said the reason given for the cancellation was that China wants to punish Norway over the awarding of the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo."
Beijing warned the Nobel committee in advance that giving the prize to jailed democracy advocate Liu would harm Sino-Norwegian relations and immediately after the prize was announced on Oct. 8 it abruptly cancelled two ministerial-level meetings with Norway. First, Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen's meeting with China's vice-minister of food safety was cancelled, despite the fact she was already in the country preparing for the talks. Next, her meeting with China's vice-fisheries minister was axed, too.
Liu's Nobel win is reminiscent of a scab Beijing cannot stop scratching. Even while international media coverage of China's first ever Nobel laureate is dying down, the Chinese press continues to prominently denounce his selection.
Both the China Daily and the Global Times ran the same article Monday denouncing him. Apparently penned by Li Chenggang, "a commentator in Beijing," the lengthy article dredged up 22-year-old quotes from Liu that it claimed showed his "disrespect towards Chinese people," and his scorn for "the nation that nurtured him."
China Daily's headline read: "Prize winner is anti-China." The Global Times' read: "Nobel winner holds deep hatred for China."
The article was suspiciously similar to one in the Communist party mouthpiece People's Daily last week, which could be conservatively described as a poison-pen profile of the jailed dissident.
In a second China Daily article about the prize Monday, another analyst argued: "Historically the (Nobel) committee has awarded the Peace Prize to Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov, Mikhail Gorbachev and even the Dalai Lama, the logic behind the selection of recipients is clear: those who try hard to split or oppose a Communist country or cater to the West's agenda will be selected."