China hides jailed Nobel dissident’s wife at home

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Originally published on Europe Online on October 10, 2012

Beijing (dpa) – Two years after her jailed husband won the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xia remains in limbo, almost completely cut off from the outside world yet subject to no legal process.

Little is known about Liu Xia‘s life over the two years since she was shut away by police and State Security officers after dissident writer Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

She is confined to her Beijing apartment nearly every day, and prevented from seeing anyone except for occasional, police-supervised meetings with a few close relatives and friends.

“She is under very tight surveillance,” Shang Baojun, a lawyer for Liu Xiaobo, told dpa.

In the first reported sighting of her this year, a friend of the couple said Liu Xia, a 53-year-old poet and photographer, was visible through a window of her fifth-floor apartment about one month ago.

“Liu Xia was smoking by her window,” the friend told dpa. “She saw me and knew I was looking for her.”

“I think that letting her see me, and at the same time filming her … can encourage her and let her know that people are thinking about her,” the friend said.

Liu Xiaobo, 56, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for subversion after he co-drafted the Charter ‘08 for democratic reform, based on the Charter ‘77 of former Czech dissidents.

China boycotted the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, where the jailed writer was represented by an empty chair as he was honoured for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

Despite international pressure to release him, the ruling Communist Party has kept the Nobel laureate at a prison in the north-eastern city of Jinzhou, close to his hometown, with Liu Xia and his two brothers his only visitors.

“It is an outrage that this man, who has been honoured all over the world and who has peacefully advocated for freedom and human rights, is treated so unjustly and ignorantly by the government of China,” exiled dissident Yang Jianli said on Tuesday.

Yang, a close friend of the couple, heads the US-based advocacy group Initiatives for China.

Authorities have increased Liu Xia‘s prison visits to one per month since November, Renee Xia, the international director of China Human Rights Defenders, said in a July report to the United Nations‘ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Liu Xiaobo was allowed to write as much as he wanted in prison and was given some books to read, but he was barred from reading any political books or foreign publications, Xia said.

Liu Xia was “still under unlawful house arrest,” but she was allowed to meet her parents once a week and occasionally go shopping under police escort, she said.

“She is permitted to see some friends, who must first be approved by authorities before a meeting can take place, but she is prohibited from seeing friends in ‘sensitive circles‘,” Xia told the UN working group.

Police also barred Liu Xia from contacting prominent lawyer Mo Shaoping, who was barred from defending Liu at his trial, and warned her not to discuss her husband‘s situation or send information via the internet, she said.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a human rights researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he did not believe Chinese authorities had “ever tried to justify her treatment as a matter of law.”

“In denying that there is any factual basis upon which to challenge their actions, the authorities have made it so that she basically ceases to exist both as a human being and as an issue for which they need to be held accountable,” Rosenzweig told dpa.

He said China‘s treatment of Liu Xia was “particularly egregious, effectively holding her hostage as extra punishment and as leverage to try to get Liu Xiaobo to capitulate to whatever their demands might be.”

Some supporters have speculated that China‘s treatment of Liu Xia could be designed to encourage Liu Xiaobo to yield to the party‘s long-standing pressure on him to go into exile.

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia have both said he would never agree to leave China and wanted to continue his fight for democratic reform.

“As far as I know, the attitude of Liu Xiaobo [towards exile] hasn‘t changed,” Shang said. dpa bs cds ses Author: Bill Smith


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