China dismisses global plea to free late dissident’s widow

Beijing, May 17 (IANS) China on Thursday dismissed the plea of a group of international writers and artists to free poet and widow of late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, saying the case was being handled as per the law of the country.

China handles the affairs of its nationals, “including Liu Xia’s release, according to law”, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang was quoted as saying by Efe news.

On Wednesday, human rights organization Amnesty International and PEN America released a video where 28 writers and artists including Rita Dove, Paul Auster, J.M. Coetzee, Khaled Hosseini, Hu Ping and Michael Chabon called for the release of Liu.

She has been under house arrest since 2010 when her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — without any charges.

The writers also read out excerpts from a poem that Liu had written while under house arrest.

Fears about Liu’s health worsened after Chinese authorities on May 11 stopped European diplomats from visiting her and especially after she herself told a friend over the phone that “she was willing to die in the house in protest against her confinement”.

“The Chinese government’s efforts to silence Liu Xia are despicably cruel. Liu Xia’s poetry inspires so many who are now united in calling for her to be free,” said Lisa Tassi, East Asia Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

Suzanne Nossel, PEN America Chief Executive Officer, said: “Liu Xia’s cry for freedom resonates around the world and rebukes the Chinese government’s hollow claim that she is free.”

Liu was last seen in photos taken during her husband’s funeral, after which she was taken to the southern Chinese province of Yunnan and then to her home in Beijing.

In the past one year, numerous attempts by friends, diplomats and international media to access her have been thwarted by strict government security around her home.

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