Calls Grow For Liu Xia, Widow of Late Dissident, to be Allowed to Leave China

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on July 14, 2017

China on Friday hit out at the international community for its support of late democracy activist and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died on Thursday in the northeastern province of Liaoning, as activists continued their calls for his wife Liu Xia to be allowed to leave China.

As Liu Xiaobo’s body awaited cremation at the Xiheyuan Funeral Home in Liaoning’s provincial capital Shenyang, German diplomats extended an invitation to Liu Xia to come with her brother Liu Hui to Germany.

But Liu Xia has been incommunicado, presumed under surveillance by the state security police, at an unknown location since her husband’s death, Liu Xiaobo’s former lawyer Shang Baojun told RFA.

“I can no longer get in touch with Liu Xia,” Shang said. “I haven’t been able to contact her since yesterday.”

He said he has no information about her current situation.

Amnesty International’s China researcher Patrick Poon said Liu Xia’s mental and physical health are also under extreme strain.

“Naturally we are worried about Liu Xia right now, because she has been suffering from depression and heart disease in the years since Liu Xiaobo went to prison,” Poon told RFA. “We are very worried about the impact that his death will be having on her.”

“It must be very hard for her.”

Poon hit out at President Xi Jinping for showing “not one iota of concern” for Liu Xiaobo, who was transferred to hospital on medical parole only after his liver cancer was confirmed to be in its final stages.

“The 19th Party Congress is nearly upon us, so I think it’s likely that Xi Jinping only cared about consolidating his own power,” he said.

Focus on Liu Xia

But he said he wasn’t optimistic that the ruling Chinese Communist Party would allow Liu Xia to take up Germany’s invitation.

“Politically, they didn’t want Liu Xiaobo to go overseas, so it’s even harder to imagine that they will let Liu Xia leave the country on humanitarian grounds,” Poon said.

The overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network called on the international community to turn the focus of their campaign to Liu Xia.

CHRD urges the international community to do everything possible to free Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife and the love of his life,” the group said in a statement on its website.

“A poet and artist, she has never been accused, charged, or convicted of any crime,” it said. “Yet since October 2010, she has been subjected to extra-legal restrictions on her movement, communications, and access to medical treatment.”

“Liu Xia was diagnosed with a serious heart condition, and has developed severe depression due to her cruel treatment,” the group said.

Bruce Lui, senior journalism lecturer at Hong Kong’s Baptist University, said there is widespread concern over Liu Xia’s fate in the international community.

“But the Chinese government will be concerned that, if they allow her to go overseas, there may be a reenactment of the Nobel Peace Prize [debacle],” he said.

“China really doesn’t want to see that.”

Will family’s wishes be respected?

A friend of the family who asked to remain anonymous said it is unclear whether the family’s wishes respected regarding the funeral arrangements will be respected by the government.

“Some news came out when Liu Xiaobo was still with us, that it was Liu Xia’s wish to have his ashes scattered at sea,” the friend said. “But this is more likely to be the government’s wish.”

“I don’t know if this is true or false information.”

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on governments to exert pressure on Beijing regarding its treatment of the family.

“No government should let the death of Liu Xiaobo pass without challenging Beijing’s mistreatment of this critical voice for human rights, calling for Liu Xia’s freedom, and pressing for the release of all those wrongfully detained across China,” HRW China director Sophie Richardson said in a statement.

“Governments should send a clear message to Beijing that the principles to which Liu Xiaobo devoted his life will thrive after his tragic death,” she said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a statement issued after Liu Xiaobo’s death on Thursday, appealed for his widow’s release.

“My heartfelt condolences go out to Liu’s wife Liu Xia and all of his loved ones. I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes,” he said.

China has responded to international criticism by lodging diplomatic protests with countries that have spoken out in support Liu Xiaobo, including the United States, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday.

Geng also hit out at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for her comments on Liu and her calls for China to embrace democracy, saying her behavior was “very dangerous.”

Taiwan lawmaker Lee Chun-yi said many in Taiwan are horrified at the circumstances of Liu’s death.

“I don’t think anyone in Taiwan thinks this is acceptable,” Lee told RFA. “This is a country that can’t even offer the most basic human rights protections, and it is adamant that Taiwan should be considered a part of it.”

“They even see our insistence on basic human rights as making trouble for the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “This isn’t helpful to the future development of cross-straits relations.”

Reported by Ding Wenqi and Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Goh Fung for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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