Wife Meets With Jailed Chinese Nobel Winner
An imprisoned Chinese dissident who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was allowed to meet Sunday with his wife and told her in tears that he was dedicating the award to victims of a 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, his wife and a close friend said.
Liu Xia, the wife of democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo, said in a Twitter message that his jailers had informed him a day earlier of his prize.
“Brothers, I have returned,” Liu wrote. “Seen Xiaobo. The prison told him the news about his award on the night of the 9th.”
The Twitter message was verified by a close friend and dissident Wang Jinbo, who wrote in another Twitter message that Liu Xia had told him she was unable to meet the media or friends because of tight security. Wang declined to be interviewed.
Half a dozen men blocked the entrance to Liu’s apartment in Beijing on Sunday night, ordering reporters out of the compound.
In naming him on Friday, the Norwegian-based Nobel committee honored Liu’s more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change – from demonstrations for democracy at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 to a manifesto for political reform that he co-authored in 2008 and which led to his latest jail term.
Wang said Liu Xiaobo told his wife during the visit that the prize “goes first” to those who died in the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen. “Xiaobo was in tears,” he wrote.
Liu Xia had sought to meet with her husband after Friday’s Nobel announcement, but authorities refused to let her visit until Sunday.
The delay underscored the difficult predicament the Chinese government faces over the award to a dissident it brands a criminal.
While the announcement cheered many in the fractured, persecuted dissident community and brought calls from the U.S., Germany and others for Liu’s release, Beijing reacted angrily. It warned Norway’s government that relations would suffer, even though the Nobel committee is an independent organization.
Liu, a slight, 54-year-old literary critic, is in the second year of an 11-year prison term and until his wife’s confirmation, it was unclear if he knew about his award. News of the prize has been largely kept out of China’s state-controlled media. Chinese regulations allow prisoners one monthly visit with their families, and Liu Xia previously said police prohibited her from talking about the Nobel nomination during her visit in September.
In her message, Liu Xia said she had been placed under house arrest Friday, the day the award was announced, and that she was no longer able to receive calls on her cell phone.
She did not provide further details on the meeting.
Shortly after the Nobel announcement, Liu Xia said she was negotiating with police to visit her husband to deliver the news. Later that night, family members said police escorted her to Jinzhou, a city 300 miles from Beijing where the prison is located.
Police put up a roadblock about a mile from the prison, which sits amid run-down factories on the outskirts of the city. Police stopped foreign reporters from passing the roadblock. Buses with police, cars with surveillance cameras and tactical units were stationed nearer the prison.
The roadblock was removed by Sunday afternoon and security forces gradually left the area.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities continued to step up pressure on activists and Liu’s supporters. The son of Beijing-based activist Wang Lihong said police told him Wang was being detained for eight days after taking part in a brief demonstration Friday at a park following the news that Liu had been awarded the peace prize.
Some of China’s most prominent activist lawyers said Saturday they were being harassed by police as they took advantage of the Peace Prize to try to reconcile differences among themselves. Lawyers Pu Zhiqiang, Jiang Tianyong and others said they were not allowed to leave their homes.
On Sunday, about 20 protesters in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong celebrated Liu’s Nobel prize by drinking champagne and eating Norwegian salmon outside the central Chinese government’s local liaison office. They also chanted slogans demanding the release of Liu and other dissidents.
Hong Kongers have been able to freely mark Liu’s award because the former British colony enjoys Western-style civil liberties typically denied in the mainland.
Liu’s wife has said she hopes to go to Norway to collect the Nobel medal and its prize money of $1.5 million if he cannot.
Photo: Liu Xia, left, the wife of jailed Chinese dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, during an interview in Beijing, Sept. 29, 2010. The two were able to meet as the Nobel laureate told his wife to dedicate the award to victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.