Liu Xiaobo got jail leave to mourn father's death
Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison term on subversion charges, was allowed out of jail briefly last month to mourn the death of his father, his brother said yesterday.
'He was home for half an hour,' said Liu Xiaoxuan, confirming that his brother was allowed to return to the family's home in Dalian, in Liaoning, on September 18. 'He was accompanied out by my older brother.'
Liu was given leave seven days after his father died, allowing him time to pay his respects in accordance with Chinese tradition. His three brothers were also allowed a rare visit to Jinzhou prison, also in Liaoning, to see the former literature professor last Wednesday, he said.
'He was fine,' said Liu Xiaoxuan, who gave only curt answers before hanging up the phone. 'He was stoical and he was managing okay.'
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said the visits represented Liu's first family contact in nearly a year. His wife saw him in prison October 10, two days after his Nobel Prize was announced. He last saw his brothers that August.
His wife, Liu Xia, has been held under house arrest and incommunicado ever since, with her phone disconnected and visitors barred from seeing her.
Liu Xiaoxuan said earlier this year his sister-in-law was only allowed two hours each week to see her parents. Police accompany her on such excursions and she is not allowed to phone anyone apart from her parents. She appears to have no internet access, with her last Twitter message posted almost a year ago. The Information Centre, quoting another brother, Liu Xiaoguang, said Liu Xia might be allowed to visit her husband this month.
The news of Liu Xiaobo's brief home visit came just four days before the first anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize award. The Nobel Committee said Liu was awarded the prize for 'his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights', but Beijing dismissed the prize as part of a Western plot to contain China's rise. Authorities subsequently stepped up their detention of other dissidents.
The 55-year-old Liu was jailed for 11 years in December 2009 on subversion charges for co-drafting Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping political and legal reforms. A long-time government critic, he was accused of being a 'black hand' in inciting the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
Jean-Philippe Beja, a senior research fellow at the Centre for International Studies and Research at Sciences Po in Paris, said allowing Liu to pay his last respects to his late father was a 'humanitarian, Confucian gesture', but also noted that family visits are a legal right and that his wife was still under house arrest.