On December 10, 2010, the Nobel Committe in Olso, Norway, honored imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Peace Prize, in his absence. He remains in jail in China. He did not send anyone to Oslo to represent him. An empty chair on the podium seen throughout the world spoke louder than words.
There were two cases in the Cold War, when two recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize could not or would not attend the ceremony: Lech Walesa from Poland in 1983 and Andrei Sakharov from the then USSR in 1975.
Danuta Walesa traveled to traveled to Oslo, read the prepared speech and received the prize in behalf of her husband; Elena Bonner did the same in behalf of Andrei Sakharov.
In both cases, the winner heard the ceremony live from Oslo. In Lech Walesa's case, he heard the ceremony live on December 10, 1983, while he remained in Gdansk, Poland, over the Polish Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. His acceptance speech began:
You are aware of the reasons why I could not come to your Capital city and receive personally this distinguished prize. On that solemn day my place is among those with whom I have grown and to whom I belong - the workers of Gdansk.
Let my words convey to you the joy and the never extinguished hope of the millions of my brothers - the millions of working people in factories and offices, associated in the union whose very name expresses one of the noblest aspirations of humanity. Today all of them, like myself, feel greatly honoured by the prize.
In Andrei Sakharov's case, he heard the ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania, on December 11, 1975, over Radio Liberty's Russian Service. Elena Bonner began with this statement:
I am here today because, due to certain strange characteristics of the country whose citizens my husband and I are, my husband's presence at the ceremony of the Nobel peace award turned out to be impossible. Today, in fact, he is not here, but in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, where the scientist Serghey Kovalyev is being tried. Due to those same strange characteristics which made it impossible for Sakharov to be in Oslo, he is at present near the court building, not inside but standing out in the street, in the cold, for the second day, awaiting the sentence against his closest friend.