China police close off jailed Nobel laureate's home

Policeman checks identity papers of journalist in front of Liu Xiaobo's apartment in Beijing - 10 December 2010 Beijing police kept journalists away from Liu Xiaobo's apartment

Anyone passing Liu Xiaobo's apartment complex as they made their home from work on Friday evening would have witnessed an unusual scene.

As the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was taking place in Oslo, a group of foreign journalists gathered on the street outside the compound that houses the prize winner's Beijing home.

They were prevented from entering by police manning a barrier. Other security officials - some in uniform, some not - mooched around nearby.

Why China considers Liu Xiaobo a threat

  • 1989: leading activist in Tiananmen Square protests for democratisation; jailed for two years
  • 1996: spoke out against China's one-party system; sent to labour camp for three years
  • 2008: co-author of Charter 08, calling for a new constitution, an independent judiciary and freedom of expression
  • 2009: jailed for subversion for 11 years; verdict says he "had the goal of subverting our country's people's democratic dictatorship and socialist system. The effects were malign and he is a major criminal".

Several relaxed in unmarked cars reading newspapers and magazines.

Some tried to strike up friendly conversation. "It's hard work tonight," said one.

In the dark, the reporters were corralled in a specially cordoned off area, their view of Mr Liu's flat obscured by newly-erected blue screens.

They were supposedly there to fence off workmen who had just started digging up the pavement. Strangely, the work only seemed to be going on around the entrance to Mr Liu's apartment complex.

A red and white sign, tied to the screens, flapped in the wind.

"Work in progress. Sorry for the inconvenience and thanks for your understanding," it read.

Cold Beijing wind

As the ceremony started in Norway, more journalists arrived, but there was nothing much happening.

Liu Xia, the Nobel laureate's wife, has been under house arrest since the days immediately following the announcement that her husband had won the prize.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas reports from the prison holding Liu Xiaobo

No-one expected her to be allowed out to make a statement.

Residents shuffled by, wrapped up against the cold that dipped just below zero, although the wind made it feel much colder.

When asked, most said they had not heard of Liu Xiaobo, let alone formed an opinion about whether he should have been given this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

One man did know the name.

The 27-year-old, who gave his name to the BBC, lives nearby and had walked passed Liu Xiaobo's compound on his way home from work, just to see what was going on.

"Liu Xiaobo promotes human rights, democracy and freedom. One day every Chinese person will know who he is," he said, before a police officer came by and shooed him away.

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