The widow of late Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has been taken on an enforced “vacation” by state security police in the southwestern province of Yunnan, as rights activists held memorials for the dissident a week after his death.
Liu Xia, who has been under continual police guard and house arrest since her husband’s Nobel award was announced in October 2010, is now “on vacation” along with her brother Liu Hui, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China said in a statement on Wednesday.
Both are incommunicado, and have been unable to make direct contact with friends and relatives in Beijing, it said, citing sources close to the family.
Their enforced disappearance coincides with the traditional Chinese memorials made one week after a person’s death, which were observed in secret by activists in mainland China, and more openly in the former British colony of Hong Kong.
Activists visited beaches and shorelines, making offerings in memory of the burial of Liu’s ashes in an urn at sea last Saturday in defiance of attempts by Chinese officials to prevent democracy and rights activists from making a shrine to him after death.
Event organizers the Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group called on supporters around the world to hold memorials on the seventh day of Liu’s death.
Activists used candles, flowers, portraits of Liu and empty chairs as a focus for their offerings, in a reference to the empty chair that represented him at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in Oslo.
But most of Liu’s supporters in China were unable to join in, Beijing-based activist Hu Jia told RFA, adding that he is under constant surveillance by the state security police.
“They pull over wherever I pull over, and if I get out of the car, they follow me,” Hu said. “I have been under house arrest since June 27 to stop me going to Shenyang.”
Police block dissidents
When he died, Liu was receiving treatment for late-stage liver cancer at the No. 1 China Medical University Hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, but was under close police guard at all times, and was denied visits from all but a select few family members.
“But whether they are stopping me from going to the seashore, or whether they were stopping me from going to Shenyang makes very little difference, I still can’t go anywhere,” Hu said.
“Of course I want to commemorate him, so as I am a Buddhist, I lit some incense for him at the shrine in my home, and I hope he attains to the Pure Land,” Hu said.
Hu said he was unable to confirm reports that Liu Xia is in Yunnan under police guard.
But he said security police are currently guarding Liu’s former residence in Dalian, and keeping journalists at bay with a “military cordon” around the area.
The couple’s Beijing home is under similar lockdown, he said.
A Beijing academic who asked to remain anonymous said she had been warned off participating in the event.
“They didn’t want me to take part, because they are thinking about the overall reaction of the population,” she said. “They want to snuff it out before it even takes hold.”
Tight surveillance and censorship
In the southern province of Guangdong, rights activist Jia Pin said he was unable to leave his home, which is currently under police guard.
“I took an empty chair, and placed a photograph of Liu Xiaobo on it, and I read out a few words I had prepared,” Jia said. “Then I made the three-finger gesture [for resistance, freedom and hope] which Liu Xiaobo invented.”
“Then I posted photos online to commemorate him,” he said.
Zhejiang-based rights activist and close friend of Liu Xiaobo’s Wen Kejian, indicated that he is also under close surveillance.
“It’s not convenient for me to talk about anything specific right now, OK?” Wen said when contacted by RFA on Wednesday.
Outside mainland China, where ruling Chinese Communist Party censors operated real-time censorship of Liu-related images on social media, supporters posted photos of empty chairs by the seashore to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Germany-based dissident author Liao Yiwu, one of the Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group organizers, said many activists there had marked the memorial day in a number of different ways.
“I will commemorate Liu Xiaobo at home, with about a dozen friends,” Liao said. “I will recite Charter 08, which we wrote together, the parts about there being no moral giants in a democracy. Other friends will be reading out his poems.”
“Other people have been holding a vigil outside the Chinese embassy since his death, and have been chased away by embassy staff,” he said.
Current affairs commentator Chen Pokong said Liu had “died in the cruelest possible way, witnessing the revival of Nazism in the form of a corrupt Chinese elite.”
“Liu Xiaobo’s death made no waves in China,” Chen wrote in a commentary aired by RFA’s Mandarin Service. “The Chinese Communist Party had succeeded in blocking all news of him.”
“Domestic media didn’t show the questions asked by foreign journalists of the foreign ministry spokesman, which shows you … just how much the party fears the name of Liu Xiaobo.”
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.