Liu Xia Stays Home ‘to Protect Brother’ on Anniversary of Husband’s Death

Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel peace laureate and prisoner of conscience Liu Xiaobo, won’t be attending any public memorials for her husband in Germany, possibly out of fear for her brother who remains in China, fellow activists told RFA.

Liu Xia Stays Home 'to Protect Brother' on Anniversary of Husband's Death
Liu Xia, widow of Chinese democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, kisses his bust in a July 12, 2018 photo.
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Liu, who arrived in Germany earlier this week after her release from eight years under house arrest, will stay home and mourn alone, according to Germany-based activist Liao Tianqi.

Liao said Liu Xia wanted “to talk to her husband’s spirit in peace and quiet,” and wouldn’t be attending a memorial event at the Gothsemanekirche in Berlin.

But there are other problems preying on her mind, in spite of her newfound freedom, he said, including fears that her brother Liu Hui may suffer at the hands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, should Liu Xia take too active a role in the exile dissident community.

“She can’t attend [the memorial] because that could bring negative consequences that she wants to avoid,” Liao told RFA on Friday.

“Liu Hui is still in mainland China, and he is strictly speaking out on parole from his prison sentence,” Liao said. “He could be thrown back in jail at any time at the whim of the Chinese government.”

“I think he is the closest person to Liu Xia, so she has a lot of concerns in this regard, and this isn’t a decision that she can make on her own behalf,” he said.

Liao said Liu Xia is in good spirits, but remains physically weak, and is currently unable to walk far without tiring.

Back in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to comment on reports that Liu would be offered permanent residency in Germany, saying the matter had little to do with the foreign ministry’s remit.

Tight security controls

Activists across China said they would like to commemorate Liu Xiaobo’s death, but were subject to tight security controls and surveillance by state security police.

Guangdong-based activist Huang Yongxiang, who attended a seashore memorial for Liu last year that was raided by police, said he had been warned off engaging in anything similar this year.

“They told me not to commemorate him; they came here early this morning to make sure that I was home,” Huang said. “I didn’t do anything.”

He said some activists have been forced to leave the cities where they live and work until the anniversary has passed.

“Others like Wei Xiaobing were rushed back to Sichuan,” Huang said. “It was mostly the people who attended [last year’s] seashore memorial who were warned.”

Wei confirmed that he was forced to leave Guangdong ahead of the anniversary, and was escorted back to the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, on Friday.

“More than a dozen state security police and regular police from [Guangdong’s] Huizhou city came with me, in the name of health and safety,” Wei said. “I am also under a great deal of pressure from my family members [to comply]. I was forced to leave and return to Sichuan.”

Wei said he wanted to commemorate Liu Xiaobo’s passing, weeks after he was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer while serving an 11-year jail term for subversion.

“Of course I am very angry because I have been bounced back and forth a dozen times this year,” he said. “But we feel somewhat gratified at the release of Liu Xia.”

Legacy, vision unfulfilled

In Washington, the Congressional Executive Commission on China issued a statement welcoming Liu Xia’s release and marking the anniversary of her husband’s death.

“[Liu’s] legacy and the vision … remain unfulfilled for millions of Chinese citizens,” commission co-chairs Sen. Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith said in a statement on its website.

“Liu Xiaobo dreamed of a ‘future free China’ ruled by law, with full respect for and protection of human rights,” they said. “We welcome the release this week of his widow Liu Xia, after eight years of unjust and illegal home confinement, and sincerely hope she is able to recover physically and emotionally in the months ahead.”

The statement said the jailing of veteran democracy activist Qin Yongmin for 13 years on subversion charges this week was “a fresh reminder that the Chinese government and Communist Party are merciless in crushing political dissent.”

And writer Ye Du, a former friend of Liu Xiaobo’s, called on activists to try to implement Liu’s call for sweeping political change in China, Charter 08.

“This manifesto for achieving political reform in China is his greatest political legacy,” Ye wrote on the website of Amnesty International. “The Charter proposes that China should develop towards a society based on democracy and freedom, with a government truly accountable under the law.”

“One year on from Xiaobo’s death, I still think of him. I think of our conversations and the ideas we debated,” Ye said. “A principle at the core of his thinking was the spirit of nonviolent resistance … He didn’t expect reform to come from the top. Political change can only come from, and be guided by, the people.”

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