‘Lamb to the slaughter’: Hongkongers mourn dissident Liu Xiaobo while protests spill to liaison office
Despite the surge of emotions, a Liu family friend says central government is unlikely to release the late activist’s wife from house arrest
Tributes from Hong Kong politicians, activists and residents have poured in for Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who succumbed to liver cancer after more than a decade in prison fighting for democracy and human rights.
On Friday morning, condolences for Liu’s family flooded social media while outside the central government’s liaison office in the city, protesters shouted at staff members: “Mourn Liu Xiaobo! Free Liu Xia!” They were referring to the late dissident’s wife, who has been placed under house arrest since 2010.
Office staff arriving for work were seen walking with straight faces hastily into the building.
Law Man-wai, a 47-year-old editor of a religious publication, was among the crowd gathered outside the office. He described Liu Xiaobo as “an intellectual who could see the fundamental illness in China”. Before embarking on his way to work, Law left a white chrysanthemum at the protest site as a tribute and show of concern for Liu Xia.
“We should all learn from Liu and his ideas about seeking progress in democracy with love and peace,” Law said. He also questioned the conditions Liu faced while under custody during the earlier stages of his cancer.
Liu died of multiple organ failure at 5.35pm on Thursday at the age of 61 after battling terminal stage liver cancer for at least more than a month.
He passed away in Shenyang, Liaoning province, despite earlier calls for the central government to release him for travel overseas to receive treatment.
He had been in and out of prison three times earlier in his life, the fourth being in 2009, when he was jailed 11 years for leading the compilation of Charter 08, a comprehensive and widely endorsed road map to the democratisation of China.
Wife Liu Xia has been under surveillance and home arrest, suffering from heart disease and serious depression.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Hong Kong’s former bishop, wrote on social media that Liu’s death would not be “in vain”.
“Dear Xiaobo, [you are] the prophet Jeremiah in my heart,” Zen wrote. “You were led like a lamb to the slaughter. We pray to the Lord for justice over you, but your wisdom reminds us that suffering and death are part of a prophet’s mission ... Your blood was not shed in vain, may the Lord grant you rest in peace!”
Zen also thanked Liu and his wife for contributing to the “reformation in the motherland”.
Jeremiah was a Hebrew prophet in the Bible who suffered persecution at the hands of his own people when he warned them and their king of an impending punishment from God for their sins.
Former Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, who arrived at the liaison office at about 9.15am on Friday, said the world has seen how the Chinese communist regime treated its Nobel laureate.
“Even many apolitical people think the Chinese government has gone too far,” Eu said.
In a Facebook post on Thursday night, executive councillor and barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, convenor of the think tank Path of Democracy, said he hoped Beijing would “soon review the scope of ‘inciting subversion of state power’,” referencing the charge Liu was found guilty of in 2009.
Tong is a former Civic Party legislator and former chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association.
On Friday, speaking on a Commercial Radio programme, Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said the top priority of his group was to unite activists in mainland China, Hong Kong and overseas to help Liu’s wife regain her freedom.
Ho added that Liu Xiaobo was respected by many for his courage and efforts in appealing to people to fight for freedom and democracy in China.
However, in a phone interview with RTHK on the same day, Liu’s family friend Ye Du said he feared that Beijing was unlikely to allow Liu Xia to leave the country anytime soon, even though he learned that the German embassy in Beijing would welcome a visa application from her.
“The matter has attracted global interest, and Liu Xiaobo would have revealed [sensitive] information to his wife in his last days ... so Liu Xia might not be able to leave China in the next few years,” he said.
Four staff of the alliance stayed overnight on Thursday to mourn Liu outside the liaison office. The event will last till Sunday midnight.
From 7pm on Saturday, the alliance will organise a march from the Statue Square in Central to the liaison office.
Meanwhile Hong Kong Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen described Liu’s death as an “unfortunate incident”, offering condolences to his relatives.
On Wednesday Leung banned pan-democratic lawmakers from tabling an adjournment debate on Liu’s case with reasons of “no urgency” and “unsuitable terms”.
On Friday, Leung insisted he made the right decision, saying the move was by the book and without any political agenda.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung