Nobel laureate’s wife detained
Liu Xia seeks help via Twitter as China puts her under house arrest after husband’s Nobel prize win.
The wife of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, has said she is being held under house arrest at her home in Beijing.
“Brothers, I have returned home. On the eighth [October] they placed me under house arrest. I don’t know when I will be able to see anyone,” a message posted on Liu Xia’s Twitter account on Sunday said.
She said she was placed under house arrest when she returned from visiting her husband in a prison in northeastern China, where she told him he had won the prestigious award.
“My mobile phone is broken and I cannot call or receive calls. I saw Xiaobo and told him on the ninth at the prison that he won the prize. I will let you know more later. Everyone, please help me tweet. Thanks,” she said in her message.
Liu Xia’s treatment since her husband won the prize has drawn the ire of international human rights organisations.
Catherine Baber, the deputy director of Amnesty International Asia Pacific, said on Saturday that the Chinese authorities must immediately disclose the whereabouts of Liu Xia, amid reports she had been detained by police.
“The Chinese authorities may want to play down the international focus Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize has placed on the thousands of prisoners of conscience held in China, but the harassment of Liu Xia is certainly not the way to achieve this,” she said.
“It is outrageous that Liu Xia be harassed just because her husband has received international recognition for his work for human rights. Her whereabouts must be disclosed immediately with confirmation that she remains a free citizen,” she said.
“The Chinese authorities would have far greater impact if they used this as an opportunity to release all those currently held in China for peacefully expressing their views and stopped harassing innocent citizens.”
Larry Siems, of the PEN American Centre, a literary and human rights group, told Al Jazeera that the house arrest was typical of treatment meted out by Chinese authorities to political dissidents.
“These are conditions that they have been living under for two decades. They have often been under house arrest,” he said.
Since Liu Xiaobo won the prize, authorities in Beijing have been desperately trying to suppress coverage, implementing a media blackout and blocking websites.
On Saturday, Chinese security personnel blocked roads around the prison in the city of Jin Zhou where Liu is being held.
In Beijing, his lawyer, Shang Baojun, said he believed very few people in China were aware that Liu had been awarded the peace prize because all websites and media in China were censoring the news.
Shang added: “Of course I wish that winning this prize would help him obtain an earlier release from prison. However, I don’t have high hopes of this happening because the government is not giving signs of this happening.”
Liu was awarded the prize after spending years advocating peaceful, gradual political change rather than confrontation with the government, unlike others in China’s highly fractured and persecuted dissident community.
The Nobel Peace Prize for Liu showed the West cannot stomach the idea of China’s rise, state-run newspapers said on Monday, adding to the government’s furious condemnation of the award.
Beijing called Friday’s award to Liu an “obscenity”.
Some state-controlled newspapers said it showed a prejudiced West afraid of China’s rising wealth and power.
“The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to ‘dissident’ Liu Xiaobo was nothing more than another expression of this prejudice, and behind it lies an extraordinary terror of China’s rise and the Chinese model,” said the Global Times, a popular Chinese-language tabloid that has led the media charge against the Nobel decision.
If Liu’s calls for a multi-party democracy in China were followed, a commentary in the paper said: “China’s fate would perhaps be no better than the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and the country probably would have quickly collapsed”.
The Nobel committee cited Liu’s participation in the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989 and the “Charter 08” document he recently co-authored, which called for greater freedom in China and an end to the Communist Party’s political dominance. After the document was published, Liu was given an 11 year prison sentence for subversion.