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Celebrating Nobel, woman arrested for splashing champagne

By the CNN Wire Staff
Protestors celebrate Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize near the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Friday.
Protestors celebrate Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize near the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Friday.
  • NEW: Rights group: "This is an absurd case"
  • The revelers were marking the victory of a Chinese dissident
  • A security guard walked up while a bottle was being opened, the woman says
  • She's been released on bail and must appear before police in November

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- A woman celebrating the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident has been charged with assault for accidentally splashing champagne on a security guard outside the Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong.

"The officer walked up as I was opening a bottle of champagne and he was splashed," said Ip Ho-yee, 22. "It was a minor incident. I never guessed that opening a bottle of champagne would lead to this."

Ip, who was arrested Sunday afternoon, made her comments in Cantonese.

The security guard was not injured, but he made a complaint, so Ip was arrested and charged with common assault, said Hong Kong police spokesman Lawrence Li.

"This is an absurd case," said Law Yuk-kai, director of Human Rights Monitor, a group based in Hong Kong. "This just shows who's the boss," Law said, referring to the mainland Chinese government.

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The British returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, with China's promise that Hong Kong could continue to govern itself for the next 50 years. But critics of Beijing say the mainland government has encroached on Hong Kong residents' rights and interfered with the special administrative region's government.

Ip was released on her own recognizance and is to appear before police in late November, said the police spokesman.

She and others were celebrating the Nobel victory of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence after repeatedly calling for human rights and democratization.

Liu was sentenced in 2009 for inciting subversion of state power. He is the co-author of Charter 08, a call for political reform and human rights, and was an adviser to the student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize to him on Friday.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the awarding of the prize to Liu was "blasphemy against the peace prize" that could harm relations between China and Norway.

The Nobel Committee stood by its choice and said it had expected China to react strongly.

"We have a very strong tradition of awarding the prize to human rights activists of many different kinds," Geir Lundestad, director of the Nobel Institute, told CNN.

"This is a tradition we are very proud of, and this is a tradition for which the Norwegian Nobel Committee has received much applause," Lundestad said. "We felt that if we were serious about this tradition, we did have to come to terms with the question of China in this perspective, and this is what we then did this year."

A record 237 names were submitted for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel committee said. Thirty-eight of the nominees are organizations. Nominees are not revealed for 50 years.