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Liu Xiaobo

Under tight watch, widow Liu Xia marks grave-sweeping day with private tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo

Supporters in China remember late dissident online and with secret memorials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 April, 2018, 11:24pm

Liu Xia, the widow of late Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, paid tribute to her husband at home in Beijing under tight surveillance on the first grave-sweeping festival since the dissident’s death last summer, a rights group said.

Other supporters in China also remembered Liu Xiaobo in private at other locations around the country on the annual Ching Ming festival on Thursday.

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The festival is traditionally a time for Chinese to visit the graves of their ancestors but Liu Xiaobo’s friends and family could not do so because the authorities cremated and buried him at sea last year, a hasty arrangement supporters said was to stop his grave becoming a focal point for other dissidents.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said on Thursday that Liu Xia mourned her husband at home as guards continued to watch her house.

She has been under house arrest since 2010, but has never been charged with any offence by the authorities.

Friends said she had been allowed occasional visits from her brother, Liu Hui, and other supporters but her mental health continued to be a cause for concern.

Reflecting that decline, Guangzhou-based writer Ye Du said Liu Xia, an accomplished poet, told him in a recent phone call that she had stopped writing poetry.

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Centre founder Frank Lu Siqing said he spoke to Liu on the phone on Thursday and was told that the authorities had not given her approval to leave China.

“Liu Xia said she mourned her husband at home alone. She also said guards were still watching her flat,” Lu said in a statement.

She put some of Liu Xiaobo’s favourite books and food by his portrait, Lu said.

According to social media posts, the couple’s supporters also held secret remembrances on beaches in Guangdong and Fujian provinces on Thursday night.

One photo taken in Guangdong showed the outline in the sand of a chair, a reminder of the empty chair that stood in the imprisoned dissident’s place in Oslo, Norway when he was prevented from collecting the Nobel in person in 2010.

It was not clear how many people took part in the remembrances or where they were held – soon after Liu Xiaobo’s death last year police arrested a handful of activists who mourned him on a beach in Xinhui county in Jiangmen, Guangdong.

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Tributes were also posted on social media platforms banned in China.

“This is the first Ching Ming festival since Liu’s passing. [I could] only remotely pay tribute by the seashore and listen to Claude Debussy’s La Mer,” one supporter in Fujian wrote.

Prominent human rights activist and former rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang also posted a portrait of Liu Xiaobo online.

“On my way home to visit the graves of my ancestors, I thought of Liu Xiaobo who passed away nine months ago, an idol of my youth and a wise man who now belongs to the sea,” Pu wrote.

“I believe Liu can sense the thoughts of longing from his brothers.”