China has summoned Norway's ambassador in Beijing to protest the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarding the 2010 peace prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Norway's foreign ministry has said.

‘They wanted to officially share their opinion, their disagreement and their protest,’ a ministry spokeswoman said.

‘We emphasised that this is an independent committee and the need to continue good bilateral relations between our countries,’ she added.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has called on China to release Liu as soon as possible.

‘Over the last 30 years, China has made dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty,’ Mr Obama, last year's Nobel peace laureate, said in a statement.

‘But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected,’ he said.

Mr Liu was jailed for 11 years last December for writing a 2008 manifesto with other Chinese activists that calls for free speech and multi-party elections.

The Nobel Committee praised Mr Liu for his 'long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. The ... Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace'.

The former literature professor rose to prominence as a strike leader during protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

He was later jailed for 20 months and then spent three years in a 'labour re-education' camp during the 1990s, as well as months under virtual house arrest.

The award has put China's human rights in the spotlight at a time when it has sought to play a bigger role on the global stage.

China has criticised the awarding of the prize to Mr Xiaobo as a violation of the honour's ideals.

Earlier today a foreign ministry spokesman said: 'The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to those who work to promote ethnic harmony, international friendship, disarmament and who hold peace meetings. These were (Alfred) Nobel's wishes.

'Liu Xiaobo was found guilty of violating Chinese law and sentenced to prison by Chinese judicial organs.

'His actions run contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. By awarding the prize to this person, the Nobel committee has violated and blasphemed the award.'

China also strongly criticised Norway after the 1989 prize went to the Dalai Lama.

The €1.07m prize will be presented in Oslo on 10 December.
It is not immediately known who will collect the prize if Mr Liu cannot do so.