Dharamshala, October 6 - Two Chinese dissidents are among this year's Nobel Peace Prize nominees, prompting moves by Beijing to counter negative publicity of its human rights record.
Oslo's International Peace Research Institute considers Gao Zhisheng and Hu Jia as top contenders for the award which will be announced October 10.
Analysts say that a decision by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo to honor Hu or Gao may increase tensions between the West and China.
``I hope the committee will make the right decision and not challenge the original purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize or hurt Chinese people's feelings,'' said Liu Jianchao, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, on Sept. 25. The prize should go to those who ``truly contributed'' to world peace, he said.
The Nobel committee may have decided against honoring Chinese dissidents in recent years to avoid offending the government and encourage improvements before this year's Beijing Olympics, but the panel may see the time as ripe now that ``the Olympic Games did not bring the improvement many had hoped for,'' said Stein Toennesson in an interview.
China ``remains an authoritarian state that doesn't respect human rights,'' Toennesson added.
Corinna-Barbara Francis, a researcher on East Asia for Amnesty International in London, said Hu now ``may well be the most prominent'' Chinese dissident.
``He's come to the attention of the international community and has continuously been pushing the envelope in terms of human rights.''
Njaal Hoestmaelingen, a researcher at the Oslo-based Norwegian Center for Human Rights, said picking a Chinese dissident may be counterproductive to the cause.
``The Chinese reaction may be to make such work far more difficult, and make it more difficult for Norway and other Western countries to collaborate with China on promoting human rights there,'' Hoestmaelingen added.
China became the focus of international protests in the months leading up to the Olympics after it cracked down heavily on Tibetan protesters in Tibet. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
This year, 33 groups and 164 individuals have been nominated, one of the largest groups in the prize's history, said Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which doesn't confirm or deny nominations.