China said yesterday that the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) would not influence the country’s political system, as the US urged Beijing to lift restrictions on the activist’s wife.
Meanwhile, prison authorities began giving Liu better food, his wife, Liu Xia (劉霞), said in a rare telephone interview with The Associated Press. She said authorities would not allow her to meet with friends or journalists.
“I am not allowed to meet the press or friends. If I have to do any daily chores, like visiting my mother or buying groceries, I have to go in their car [police car],” she said, using a new cellphone brought to her by a brother after police rendered her old one unusable.
Liu Xia said her brother-in-law told her that the prison began serving Liu Xiaobo individually prepared food with rice on Monday rather than a portion of food cooked in a large pot for many prisoners, which is usually of poor quality. There was no immediate indication that any other conditions had improved.
Liu Xia’s comments came as Liu’s lawyers said they were considering asking for a retrial of the jailed dissident, the co-author of a manifesto calling for bold democratic reforms in China. He was jailed in December last year for 11 years on subversion charges.
Beijing continued to criticize the award.
“Some politicians from other countries are trying to use this opportunity to attack China,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma Zhaoxu (馬朝旭) told reporters, adding the Nobel committee’s decision “shows no respect for China’s judicial system.”
“If some people try to change China’s political system in this way and try to stop the Chinese people from moving forward, that is a big mistake,” Ma said.
He said that by supporting “the wrong decision of the Nobel committee, the Norwegian government has moved to hurt bilateral relations.”
In other developments, relatives of victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre joined calls to let Liu Xiaobo walk free.
In an open letter, the Tiananmen Mothers praised Liu Xiaobo for his long struggle to promote democracy and law in China through peaceful, rational and non-violent means, said Zhang Xianling (張先玲), one of the signatories.
“We ask the central authorities to immediately release Liu Xiaobo,” she said. “He has fought with and supported the Tiananmen Mothers for over 20 years, he has always stood beside us and today we are standing by him.”
Liu Xiaobo helped negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators before tanks crushed the peaceful protests.
In related news, Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Raghnild Imerslund said China has canceled a second meeting with Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, leading her to scrap the Beijing leg of her trip.
On Monday, a meeting that had been scheduled for today was abruptly cancelled and yesterday they called off a meeting with a vice minister from the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.
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