Worldwide memorials held including in Hong Kong to remember Liu Xiaobo
About 500 people attend event at Tamar Park near government headquarters; mainland Chinese friends face detention over attempts to mourn dissident
Friends and supporters of the late dissident Liu Xiaobo gathered worldwide on Wednesday to mark the traditional Chinese observance of the seventh day since his death, amid a censorship crackdown in mainland China and growing concern over the fate of Liu’s widow.
Liu Xia was last seen in official pictures attending her husband’s sea burial last Saturday.
Her whereabouts were unknown on Wednesday. There were reports that she had been sent by mainland authorities to the southwestern province of Yunnan.
The global memorials were part of an online campaign initiated by a “Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group” formed by Liu’s supporters, who called on fellow supporters across the world to hold memorials on the seventh day of Liu’s death as a gesture to say “no” to “the Beijing dictatorship”.
The Chinese believe that the spirit of a newly deceased person will return home to bid final farewell to their beloved ones on the seventh day of his or her death.
There were memorials in Vancouver, Boston, Melbourne, London and Hong Kong, according to the action group.
The democracy fighter died in custody last Thursday in a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province, where he had been treated for weeks for terminal liver cancer. He was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for writing the pro-democracy manifesto Charter 08.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. China did not allow him to attend the prize presentation ceremony. The world’s media spotlight focused on his empty chair.
Liu’s friends were reportedly under house arrest in mainland China as they prepared for the memorials. Some were detained after staging ceremonies at the seaside – an allusion to Liu’s controversial sea burial which supporters saw as a deliberate attempt by the government to deny them a place of pilgrimage.
Ye Du, a Guangzhou-based writer and family friend of Liu, tweeted on Wednesday: “Police brought two cartons of cigarettes and a watermelon to my apartment, saying it was an order coming from their superiors to watch me and stop me from approaching the riverside or the shore.”
Another family friend, Beijing-based activist Hu Jia, said police had stepped up surveillance on him since last Friday. “They told me that the measures against me won’t be loosened until [July 20]. But I’m not sure if I will be free afterwards.”
Two of Liu’s supporters, Dalian-based Jiang Jianjun and Wang Chenggang, went to the seaside to lay flowers and light some candles, but were taken away by police.
Jiang’s wife, Han Jinmei, said police told her Jiang had been placed under 10 days of administrative detention for mourning Liu. “I don’t understand why it is illegal now to mourn a deceased person,” Han told the Post.
In Hong Kong, hundreds assembled at a coastal park outside the Legislative Council and government headquarters complex for a memorial organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Police put the figure at 1,500 at its peak.
A huge banner reading “Remembering Liu Xiaobo – Free Liu Xia” was hung at a booth where people queued up to sign a condolence book.
An empty chair was put on the stage. People laid flowers in front of a portrait of Liu.
Speaking in a recorded video screened during the vigil, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Anderson said: “Liu Xiaobo was a representative of ideas that resonate to millions of people all over the world and in China too. These ideas cannot be imprisoned and they can never die.”
She also urged people to follow Liu’s example and conduct protests “in a dignified and non-violent manner”.
Watch: Candlelight march in Hong Kong for Liu Xiaobo
A participant, Poon Tat-keung, 53, said he was moved by Liu’s struggle for democracy in China. He added people should voice out and continue to pursue Liu’s cause. “If nobody voices out, everyone will suffer. Nobody can survive [the suppression of] a totalitarian government with their own strength.”
Alliance vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong said: “Tonight as we mourn Liu Xiaobo, we do not simply review his life, but also think about how we can further his beliefs.”
In response to questions about Liu, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday that countries appealing about Liu’s case did not represent the majority of the international community.
“Those who really speak up on this incident may not even take up one-tenth of the total member countries of the United Nations,” he said.