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Environmental activist to defy party rulers by attending Nobel ceremony

A prominent Chinese environmental activist has announced she will attend the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo despite attempts by Beijing for a boycott of the event and a crackdown on the country's activists.

China believes the award of the prize is a travesty that mocks its justice system and the ceremony on 10 December has gained extra importance as a focal point for protests against Chinese rights' abuses.

Mr Liu's wife, Liu Xia, released a letter asking friends and fellow dissidents to attend. "Xiaobo says this peace award actually belongs to all the souls who died on 4 June. I think this award belongs to all of the fearless Chinese who protect the dignity of every single Chinese citizen," she wrote. Those sent the letter add up to a roll-call of dissenters in China, including lawyers, activists, academics and others calling for democracy and press freedom in China.

Dai Qing, who rose to fame as an opponent of the Three Gorges Dam, is one of the first prominent figures who has said she will attend. Her book criticising the dam project, Yangtze! Yangtze! earned her 10 months in a maximum-security prison, during which she was threatened with the death sentence.

"In the past 20 years, how many Chinese people with noble ideals have been persecuted or detained? And how many people have endured extreme emotional distress for calling for a better society?" she wrote in a reply to Ms Liu's letter, in which she said she was proud to attend the ceremony.

She drew parallels between Liu Xiabo and fellow laureates Carl von Ossietzky, jailed by the Nazis, and Burmese social activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.

"When the news was announced they, like Liu, were both in custody. I was honoured to be included in Liu Xia's Long List of "Xiaobo's fellow friends". Meanwhile, China's best known and most controversial artist, Ai Weiwei, was still under house arrest last night to prevent him from travelling to Shanghai for a party to mark the demolition of his Shanghai studio.

Mr Ai, who recently exhibited in the Tate Modern in London, had been invited to build a multi-studio in a new art district in the city's north, but officials changed their minds and declared it an illegal structure, possibly fearful of the controversy that dogs the artist.

To mark the government-ordered destruction of his new Shanghai studio, he had said he would give his supporters 10,000 river crabs – the word "River crabs" sounds very similar to the word for "harmonise", easily read as an ironic swipe at the ongoing crackdown on dissent.

He is well-known in China because of his work in the construction of the Olympic stadium, although he was subsequently critical of the structure.

Among his controversial work was an investigation in December 2008 into children who died in the Sichuan earthquake. The project was supported initially, but after researchers started asking why there were so many dead in some schools and not in others, things became awkward for those backing the project.

Police burst into the hotel room of Ai Weiwei in Chengdu in August and beat him so badly that Munich surgeons subsequently had to drill two holes in his head to remove 30ml of fluid from his skull.