Silence amplifies friends’ fears about the fate of Nobel laureate’s widow Liu Xia
State media cite official sources claiming Liu Xiaobo’s widow just ‘wants to be left alone’
Friends and relatives of late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo said on Friday they had not been able to contact his widow Liu Xia despite mounting international calls for her to be allowed to leave the country.
The 56-year-old painter, photographer and poet has been isolated since the laureate’s death on Thursday in a Shenyang hospital. Supporters have also not been able to contact members of the laureate’s family.
But state media said Liu Xia was “a free person” who just wished to be left alone.
Close friends said they were worried for her well-being, with reports that she had already lost both parents in the last year and had suffered from depression and a heart condition.
“I have heard nothing from her. I’m very worried about her. She is a fragile woman, I fear she might have been driven mad,” said a close friend who refused to be named because she was visited by security agent yesterday.
Another friend, Zhang Huanping, said she had also not heard from her. “Xiami, your pain, persecution, loneliness and helplessness go without saying,” Zhang tweeted, referring to Liu Xia by her nickname.
Liu Xia has been under house arrest since 2010 and only reunited with her husband last month when he was released on medical parole.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he had no information about Liu Xia, but added that the entry and exit of Chinese citizens would be handled in accordance with the law.
“Let’s not make any prejudgements here,” he responded, when pressed on whether Liu Xia was allowed to leave the country.
Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Germany would continue to push for a “humanitarian solution” for Liu Xia.
Seibert said Germany supported such a solution for the couple “and that will not end from one day to the next with the very regrettable death of Liu Xiaobo”.
Citing a government source, state-run China News Service said Liu Xia was “in fact a free woman who just doesn’t want to be disturbed”.
“Liu is free now but is grieving from losing her loved one. It is the family’s wish and common sense to leave her undisturbed to handle Liu Xiaobo’s funeral,” the report said.
Activist and close family friend Hu Jia said he did not expect Beijing would allow her go overseas. Hu said he was under house arrest to prevent him from travelling to Shenyang.
“Her fate is tied with Liu Xiaobo,” Hu said. “Now that Xiaobo is gone, all attention would be channelled to her but we shall continue to push for her evacuation out of China ...This is his diying wish to have her to live without fear.”
Other supporters of Liu have reportedly been taken away by police as authorities proceed with funeral arrangements, according to other activists.
Friends said the authorities suggested Liu Xiaobo’s family have his body cremated in Shenyang and his ashes scattered at sea.
Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of Nobel Peace Prize committee, said her visa to China to attend Liu’s funeral had been rejected amid speculation that Beijing was trying to avoid a publicity around Liu’s funeral.
In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sent her condolences to Liu Xia, saying she believed Beijing would handle the case “in a legal and compassionate way”.
Protesters outside the central government’s liaison office chanted: “Mourn Liu Xiaobo! Free Liu Xia!”
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung, Stuart Lau, Xinqi Su, Ng Kang-chung, Reuters and Associated Press