When messages with Liu's name became blocked and online searches for him or "Nobel Peace Prize" failed — a usual tactic of censors — people began posting oblique congratulations to an unnamed Chinese for winning a Nobel.
Some curious students also said they did not know why Liu won and, echoing an oft-stated government line, wondered whether it was not a backhanded plot to shame China.
"The impact he has made is not Nobel Prize-level so far," said a Peking University English major, who would only give his English name, Eric Zhang. "People abroad know him better than we do. This is not us choosing him. They chose him, so I'm a bit suspicious. But maybe this is an opportunity to get more freedom so we don't have to go to Twitter to find out about him."
The government blacked out reports on CNN, which can be seen in tourist hotels and places where foreigners work and live, and kept the news off the main nationwide TV newscast. China Central Television-4, which is aimed at Chinese overseas, read the Foreign Ministry statement, providing a back door for Chinese to learn about Liu.
"Millions and millions of ordinary Chinese people, government employees, party cadres, students ... are going to want to know who is Liu Xiaobo and why he was sentenced to prison," said Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. "They are going to discover Charter 08, which will spread uncontrollably."
The decision to jail Liu, he said, "has backfired spectacularly, and at a very critical juncture when China is coming out in the international community. Was jailing Liu worth the price of the current predicament?"
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