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China to lead mass Nobel boycott

China and 18 other countries will boycott this week's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in protest against the award going to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Chinese officials in Beijing called Liu's backers "clowns" in an anti-Chinese farce - comments that came only three days before the ceremony in Oslo on Friday.

Beijing considers Liu's recognition an attack on China's political and legal system, and says the country's policies will not be swayed by outside forces in what it calls "flagrant interference in China's sovereignty".

The Nobel committee said countries that have turned down an invitation to Friday's ceremony include China's allies - Pakistan, Venezuela and Cuba - Chinese neighbours such as Russia, the Philippines and Kazakhstan, and Chinese business partners such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

At least 44 of the 65 embassies that were invited have accepted the invitation, the prize committee said.

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the Nobel committee of "orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves".

"We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path," a spokeswoman said.

The tough talk came even as authorities were placing Liu's supporters, including his wife Liu Xia, under house arrest and stopping numerous others such as lawyers, academics and activists from leaving the country - apparently to prevent them from travelling to Oslo for the award ceremony.

Later, China said it had set up its own peace prize and plans to award it on Thursday, the day before the Nobel Committee honours the imprisoned Chinese dissident.

A commentary published on November 17 in a Communist Party-approved tabloid suggested China create its own award - the "Confucius Peace Prize" - to counter the choice of Liu.

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