Mon, Dec 10, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Confined wife of Chinese Nobel laureate speaks

By Isolda Morillo and Alexa Olesen  /  AP, BEIJING

Liu appeared frail and said that she has a back injury that frequently keeps her confined to bed. Her hair was shaved close to her head, a severe look that she has worn since before her husband was jailed in 2009.

A poet, photographer and painter, Liu Xia said she spends her time reading and sometimes painting. She last saw her husband a few weeks ago and said he was in good health, but she could not remember the exact date of the visit.

“I don’t keep track of the days anymore,” she said. “That’s how it is.”

Two years ago today, the Nobel committee held Liu Xiaobo’s award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, with an empty chair on stage to mark his absence. The Chinese government kept Liu Xia and other activists from attending and pressured foreign diplomats to stay away. For a time, the empty chair became a symbol of support for Liu on the Internet.

During a rare phone interview a few days after the award was announced, Liu Xia sounded hopeful her confinement would be brief.

“I’m sure that for a moment the pressure will be greater, I will have even less freedom, even more inconvenience, but I believe they won’t go on like this forever and that there will be positive change in the future,” she said.

However, little has changed, for her or her husband. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week reiterated its position that Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal and that giving him the peace prize represented “external interference in China’s judicial sovereignty and domestic affairs.”

Today, attention turns again to another Nobel awards ceremony, this one in Stockholm, Sweden, where the shadow of Liu Xiaobo is expected to hang over Mo’s moment of glory.

A prolific writer of raw and magical fiction centered on rural Chinese life, Mo is often savagely critical of officials in his stories, but he has faced criticism for not being a more outspoken defendant of freedom of speech and for being a member of the Chinese Communist Party-backed writers’ association.

When asked about Liu Xiaobo at a meeting with reporters after being named literature prize winner in October, Mo said he hoped for his early release, but did not push the issue.

Mo dodged questions about Liu Xiaobo at a news conference in Stockholm on Thursday, noting that he had already expressed his opinion and suggesting that people could search the Internet to find those remarks.

He also said that although the truth should not be censored, defamation and rumors should be. He likened censorship to a security check at an airport and said: “I think these checks are necessary.”

Other Nobel laureates have been more outspoken. An appeal this week by 134 Nobel laureates, from peace prize winners like South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Taiwanese-American chemist Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), called the Lius’ detention a violation of international law and urged their immediate release.

“This flagrant violation of the basic right to due process and free expression must be publicly and forcefully confronted by the international community,” the laureates’ appeal said.

Until Thursday’s unexpected interview, the last images of Liu Xia were released in October by the Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, which did not say how it obtained them. The grainy video showed a lone woman smoking by her apartment window at night.

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