The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Liu Xiaobo, a leading Chinese dissident who is serving an 11-year prison term after repeatedly calling for human rights and democratization, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

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.

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, told CNN she could not wait to visit him in prison in northern China and tell him the news. She said she was packing under the surveillance of police officers who have promised to take her to visit her husband the next day.

“I am totally shocked and feel so happy,” she said. “I’ve never dreamed about this. Friends have asked me to prepare for a speech, but I’ve only prepared one for Xiaobo not winning the prize.”

Liu Xia said she regretted her husband couldn’t share the moment with her. She said he will be “surprised and humbled” to find out, but also feel “a greater sense of responsibilities” because of the great honor.

“It’s an affirmation of what he has fought for,” she said.

His lawyer, Shang Baojun, said the win may mean Liu will have to spend longer in prison.

“I hope that he’d be released earlier because of the prize, but in reality, that will not happen,” Shang told CNN.

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.

“Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal sentenced to jail by Chinese justice. His acts are in complete contradiction to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize,” spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

The human rights group Amnesty International called on the Chinese government to release all “prisoners of conscience” following the win.

“Liu Xiaobo is a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. We hope it will keep the spotlight on the struggle for fundamental freedoms and concrete protection of human rights that Liu Xiaobo and many other activists in China are dedicated to,” said Catherine Baber, the deputy Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International.

It was unclear whether Liu Xiaobo had learned of his prize from prison, but he was the favorite of many around the world to win

The president of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, said Liu won for his “long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

In announcing the prize, he said, “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the fraternity between nations of which (prize founder) Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.”

Liu’s struggle has made him the “foremost symbol” of the struggle for human rights in his country, Jagland said.

Liu spoke of his work in 2007, while he was between a series of house arrests.

“From my personal angle, I feel in a dictatory society if you want to be a person with dignity, if you want to be a honest person, fight for human-rights improvement, fight for free speech, being … [in prison] is part of what you are undertaking, and there is nothing to complain,” he told CNN.

“Since you chose to do this, you must have a preparation for being in prison,” he said. “Entering the prison you must face these things peacefully, not complain [about] others. I even don’t complain [about those] … who arrested me, because this is their inevitable action. I can also not let them arrest me if I chose other way.”

Twitter users in China were unable to discuss Liu or the Nobel Prize on the micro-blogging site, but some still reacted to the award.

“I am so excited when I heard this news! Finally good people is recognized by the world!” wrote one Twitter user.

“They censored what I’ve just posted on micro blog! Can you really stop people in this Internet age!” wrote another.

At least two international television networks—CNN and BBC—were temporarily blacked out as the Nobel Committee announced the winner.

Residents in the country were once again able to see CNN coverage when the announcement ended and the channel returned to regular programming, though CNN was blacked out again a short time later.

Liu’s sentencing prompted a groundswell of support from former Peace Prize laureates and perennial contenders.

Vaclav Havel, the hero of Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution (who never won the Nobel Prize), retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who did, in 1984), and the Dalai Lama (1989) were among a group of intellectuals who publicly urged the Nobel Committee to give the prize to Liu shortly after he was sentenced.

American writer Kwame Anthony Appiah, the head of the American PEN center, a literary and human rights organization, nominated Liu in January, he said.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that foreign ministry spokesman Ma said it would be “totally wrong” for “such a person” to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and that the comment was later scrubbed from the official transcript of the briefing.

The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power had already paid out on bets for Liu to win the prize, it announced Wednesday, after a surge in betting led it to suspect that information had leaked.

“It is people’s affirmation of his 20 years’ work,” Liu’s wife told CNN in September in response to his nomination. “It means many people in the world believe that China needs change in its political system and people’s freedom of speech.”

Of his condition in prison, she said, “He is doing OK spiritually and physically. The hospital has been giving him stomach pills. His stomach is not very good. They also said he might have some problem with his liver, hepatitis B maybe. I worried about it. He reads, runs and writes every day. He runs one hour every day.

“There is nothing else we can do. The judicial procedure is to the end already,” she said.

“I know that some friends wish Liu Xiaobo to win this award more urgently than himself,” she added. “They believe it is an opportunity for China to change.”