China 'steals wife's freedom' to pressurise Liu Xiaobo

Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was convicted of subversion in 2009

China's Communist rulers are trying to force the country's jailed Peace Prize laureate into going into exile by putting pressure on his wife, who is not well, the BBC has been told.

A source close to the family has told us that Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China as that would lead to his voice being marginalised.

But the source said that Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia is "suffering mentally" because she has now spent two years under illegal house arrest and continues to be detained.

It was exactly two years ago when Liu Xiaobo, a soft-spoken academic, won the Peace Prize for his calls for peaceful political reform in China.

He never collected it as he was already in a jail in China, where he remains, convicted of subversion.

His wife Liu Xia, an even softer-spoken poet and photographer, has been similarly silenced. She's being held in her own flat in Beijing.

She's been there for two years, detained just a couple of days after her husband was announced as the 2010 winner.

And Norway too is, it seems, still being punished. The prize has nothing to do with the Norwegian government.

But China continues to snub Norwegian ministers, diplomats and politicians, according to other diplomats in Beijing.

Start Quote

Liu Xia effectively ceases to exist, both as a human being and as an issue”

End Quote Joshua Rosenzweig Human rights expert
Tight control

But the BBC has spoken to an individual in contact with Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia's families, who has given some new insights into the couple's situation.

The individual asked that we don't name them, and told us that Liu Xiaobo is in reasonable health, but his stomach problem "is getting worse".

China's authorities allow only three people to visit Liu Xiaobo in Jinzhou prison where he's being held: his two brothers who can see him about once every six months, and his wife who sees the Nobel Peace Prize winner every two to three months, the source said.

They have to ask for permission in advance and wait for notification.

"They are not allowed to go and visit him together. Only one person is allowed each time. And the police watch them during the entire meeting," our source told us.

"They are forbidden to talk about anything else other than family matters. The police don't want the family to bring in any information from outside to Liu Xiaobo."

The two brothers did visit together once, in September last year. That was to inform Liu Xiaobo that his father had died. He was then allowed a brief visit home to pay his respects before he was whisked back to jail.

His wife, Liu Xia, meanwhile, has not committed any crime in China but is being held in her home.

"There are two policewomen living with her in her apartment. And lots of plain-clothes police watching the compound constantly," our source told us.

Photographs from The Silent Strength of Liu Xia exhibition at the City University Hong Kong Liu Xia's latest photo exhibition, on display in Hong Kong, focuses on the suffering of Chinese people

"Liu Xia's health is not very well. Mentally she suffers a lot because of the loss of personal freedom and the worries about her jailed husband."

"She is allowed to go out and visit her mother and meet one of her best friends roughly once a month, escorted by policewomen the entire time. Other than visits to her husband, that's it.

"She is not allowed to go anywhere else, not even to the park or shop. And no-one is allowed to even approach her compound, let alone visit her."

The individual added: "What the government is doing to Liu Xia is illegal. They do this routinely to dissidents in order to prevent them speaking to the press and tainting the government's image.

"Her husband is currently the most famous dissident in China, so she suffers tighter control than other dissidents."

'Very cruel'

His view is backed up by Joshua Rosenzweig, a human rights researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who said he was "not aware of any legal authority for restricting Liu Xia's liberty".

"Her relegation to this ambiguous zone appears to be deliberate, because if you can't treat [her detention] as something sanctioned or even covered by law, then how do you begin to challenge it? Liu Xia effectively ceases to exist, both as a human being and as an issue," he said.

Start Quote

The government wants Liu Xiaobo to leave because the fact that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is in jail is a reminder of China's poor human rights situation”

End Quote Friend of Liu Xiaobo's family

China's government insists Liu Xia is not being held against her will. But Mr Rosenzweig says its aim is to silence Liu Xia, her husband and their families, so there is no news about the jailed laureate.

"One of the few ways the outside world has to learn anything about individuals who have been imprisoned in China is through what their relatives learn and observe during periodic prison visits," he says.

"I don't know the last time that Liu Xia was able to visit her husband, but I am fairly certain that any interaction she has been able to have with him has been under the precondition that she remain silent.

"To the extent that this reflects an official strategy to counter Liu Xiaobo's influence, it would have to be deemed successful. There's only so much interest that can be sustained by a person's continued absence.

"That's why you don't see too many headlines proclaiming 'no news of Nobel laureate again this month'."

And the friend of the family who spoke to the BBC says that, by being so harsh on his wife, China is trying to pressure Liu Xiaobo into cutting a deal to go into exile.

"The government is trying to force Liu Xiaobo to leave China by taking his wife's personal freedom away. At the same time, the government threatens both their families, saying if they try to speak to the media or leak any information their right to visit Liu Xiaobo will be taken away.

"This is very cruel. It has forced the family to keep quiet."

But, the family friend added, Liu Xiaobo will not agree to leave China, despite the fact that his prison term lasts until 2020.

"The government has always wanted Liu Xiaobo to leave China because the fact that a Nobel Peace Prize winner is in jail, is a constant reminder of China's poor human rights situation.

"When previous dissidents have left China their voices gradually fade and their influence disappears. That's why Liu Xiaobo insists he'll stay even if it means staying in jail. Remaining in China is what's significant for him."

Damian Grammaticas Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    19. niko


    I've never heard a Chinese person use this word, which you have invented yourself. In what universe are you living?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    4. Tony Webster

    "apalling, brutish, and barbaric"

    Sounds like you're talking about the word-wide actions of your CIA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The Chinese government is revolting. It's enough to make someone want to vomit. The following should be non-negotiable for China: stop all censorship, end blocking the internet, allow other opposition political parties, hold elections for all levels of government, free political prisoners. Enough is enough!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    @59 Those who oppress human rights like the CCP should be discredited. This article is complimenting Chinese people who are willing to sacrifice and suffer in order to improve the lives of other Chinese people.
    Biassucks, maybe you'd rather read nationalist propaganda about how China should go to war over some uninhabited islands based on made up stories and quasi-history. People's lives are more important than national pride.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    @59 A beautiful country with an awesome history and rich culture. unfortunately run by a third world dictatorship

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I appreciate Mr. Grammaticas' report. Of course, it offends some narrow minded and shortsighted people. It is the way of our human world. China still has to go for a long way to build a morally and ethically great and new nation. It is what Chinese people need. Whether we are Chinese or not, we all should stand up and speak for it. We can't keep a blind eye on the wrong path this Nation is taking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    China is a giant in terms of population size and cultural, national and individual stupidity. Looking around we notice all the giants are dead because of their out-sized stupidity, which then as today pissed God and the innocent, right off.

    The trouble is that the communist party leaders are infirm, poorly developed, overly pampered, jeuveniles supremely insecure about justified criticism which towers over their summed up potential. In short, lacking God, law and therefore conscience they are able, as was Bush, to practice giant feats of inhumanity without loss of sleep or appetite. Liars!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Mr Grammaticas, has there been ANY SINGLE report you wrote about China or the Chinese government is to complement it rather than to discredit it. Would you mind taking off your "western sunglasses" to see a comprehensive China, given you have been living here for a while and also given China has only 63 years to develop itself to what it is today?

    This is a public forum rather your own blog, so what you wrote here about this amazing oriental giant would have greatly influenced how your numerous western readers view China, a different culture and people with their own idealogies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Just one more episode in the usual and customary behavior in this "World Class" country of barbarians and otherwise nasty critters. They are so afraid of losing the slightest control of everything, that they would destroy that which would materially add to their reputation as a country. It seems that China is continuing its political tradition of the "Emperor" where no one can can appear to be superior to the ruler. In this case, the leadership behavior is clearly following that ancient tradition. They have to be amazingly insecure!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Wow,I see so many 0.5 yuan party here......
    I support Liu Xiaobo and others dissidents,nobody's freedom of speeching should be repressed.
    I'm proud of being a Chinese,but I'm sad that CPC is ruling my country brutally but I can do nothing to save it.

    This way,KMT soldiers!Long life ROC!For bringing the democracy and freedom back to mainland!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I feel the pain Liu's family suffering at but I won't say what the CPC doing now is wrong. China is big with the largest population compare to the rest. I'm not saying socialism is good but this is how it has to be in China. If capitalism does exist in China, it will be in a big mess.

    I'm pretty sure you all will start cursing now after reading this post but try to compare UK and China. Which one is better now? Don't take Dalai Lama or whatever it is to jeopardise China image. Tell the UK government to let go Falklands before starting to interrupt with other country affairs.

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    "When previous dissidents have left China their voices gradually fade & their influence disappears. That's why Liu Xiaobo insists he'll stay even if it means staying in jail. Remaining in China is what's significant for him."
    There is his position in a nutshell; it is courageous. It is wise because he understand China and what he hopes to accomplish with his life.
    Let it be...

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    -The prize has nothing to do with the Norwegian government.- Actually the Nobel committee is appointed by the Norwegian parliament so it has a lot to do with the Norwegian government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    I want to say you don`t know the situation of China. Actually, China has a lot of problems now, but all of these problems are ours, not yours. We could solve these issues by ourselves. China is an open country, as the man said, most people are much more intelligent than you think. China is not North Korea, please stop lying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    7 Hours ago
    hizento : All I want to say to you is that to stop lying. Not everyone is being brainwashed by the PRC propaganda. Most people are much more intelligent than you'd like to think and believe."

    Obviousely you are not one of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    China needs man like Liu Xiaobo to pursue democracy and freedom, but at current era, China also needs to suppress men like Liu Xiaobo to keep on political stability and development. The co-exist of this kind of conflicting phenomena will educate people's mind and equip people resources for next innovation/revolution when time is right, probably after 20-30 years later. Whom ever wants China to have a revolution now, is either a traitor or a foreign imperialist.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    tell me what is the so-called human right,It maybe just a abstract concept or just exist in media report or some philosophic books.For every rational person ,we know that the so-called human right is just a tool for whom in power.Im also a chinese.I had enough for CCP's stupid policy.But Mr Grammaticas you should know that there is a self-evident truth that the people really dont care what political system they have (no matter how so-called behindhand),If most of its people agree,thats well.Of course there are still many fatal problems exist in Chinese political system

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Do not trust the CCP, they will never become good. They want to slave the rest of the world but not enouph power oterwise they will do so. I'm a Chinese living tin the damn communist contorled country, if you want to read bbc news, you have to find a way across the national fire wall which is known as GFW.


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