Liu Xiaobo’s widow allowed to spend Christmas Eve with brother, Hong Kong human rights group says
Liu Xia takes in decorative lights in Beijing while about 50 people in Hong Kong protest against her house arrest
Liu Xia, widow of China’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, was able to get out of her home and enjoy decorative lighting in Beijing on Christmas Eve with her younger brother, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said on Monday.
The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy contacted Liu by phone shortly after noon on Christmas Day. Liu, who has been under house arrest since 2010 despite not being formally charged with a crime, was initially good spirits, according to the centre’s founder, Frank Lu Siqing, who spoke to her for about 15 minutes.
It was the first time the centre had spoke to Liu since November 4. The centre has tried to maintain contact with Liu since September after friends and supporters became concerned about her welfare following her husband’s death from liver cancer in July.
Lu said on the centre’s website that he heard Liu laugh after he greeted her with “Merry Christmas”.
Liu told him that she has been taking medication for depression and went out with her younger brother Liu Hui on Christmas Eve.
Lu responded by advising Liu to try to come to Hong Kong during Chinese Lunar New Year in February. “You have never been to Hong Kong. You may feel happier here,” Lu told her.
Thursday is Liu Xiaobo’s birthday. Lu said that as soon as he mentioned Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia began to sob. Lu said he immediately tried to comfort her.
“It is Christmas today. You must be happy. I will bring your ‘Merry Christmas’ to the people who care about you in Hong Kong.”
Concern for Liu Xia could be seen on the streets of Hong Kong as about 50 people took part in a demonstration to urge China to set her free on the eighth anniversary of Liu Xiaobo’s conviction for “inciting subversion of state power”. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his involvement in writing Charter 08, a petition advocating political reform in China. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.
The demonstrators marched to Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Wan, holding a brown chair – a reference to the chair the Nobel Prize committee left empty at the awards ceremony because Liu Xiaobo was in prison – and wearing Christmas hats with printed Chinese characters saying “Free Liu Xia”.
They threw the hats over the fence into the front yard of the liaison building.
The group also called for the immediate release of other dissidents, including Li Xuewen, an author arrested last Tuesday for mourning Liu Xiaobo on the mainland.
Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said it was “shameful” for the mainland authorities to keep Liu Xia, who has long been suffering from depression, under surveillance after her husband died.