Wife of jailed Chinese Nobel peace prize laureate 'is a hostage'

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 February 2011 17.12 GMT  Tania Branigan in Beijing
The Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, photographed in Beijing in 2002. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
The wife of the jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo said she and her family are “hostages”, according to a friend. The comment is thought to be her first contact with the outside world for four months.
Supporters have been unable to reach Liu Xia since shortly after October’s announcement that her husband had won the award. It was initially thought she was under house arrest at the couple’s home in Beijing, but it is now believed she may be being held at her parents’ house.
The poet said she was miserable and added: “No one can help me,” according to a transcript of the conversation. The Washington Post said it received the document from the friend, with whom she had communicated online, via an intermediary.
“I don’t know how I managed to get online,” Liu Xia wrote in the five-minute chat on Thursday night. “Don’t go online. Otherwise my whole family is in danger.”
Asked whether she was at home, she added: “Yes. Can’t go out. My whole family are hostages.”
She added: “So miserable. I’m crying. Nobody can help me.”
The chat ended when her friend asked her to log out because he was concerned he would cause her more trouble, adding: “We miss you and support you. We will wait for you outside.”
Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power for co-authoring Charter 08, a bold call for democratic reforms, and other essays posted online.
The author was represented by an empty chair at the Nobel ceremony last year because none of his family was able to attend.
The authorities placed his wife under house arrest when he won. Her communications were cut off a few days later, although she had said she was able to visit him in prison after the announcement.
In her online chat, she wrote: “I only saw him once,” apparently in reference to her husband.
Liu Xiaobo’s case has sparked international condemnation. Campaigners are particularly alarmed at the treatment of his wife, because she has never been accused of any crime.
In an interview with the Observer last year, she said she did not have much interest in politics, but added: “When you live with such a person, even if you don’t care about politics, politics will care about you.”
Human rights groups say they fear the authorities are increasingly turning to unlawful methods to silence unwanted voices, citing cases such Liu Xia’s, the disappearance of the lawyer Gao Zhisheng and the house arrest of the legal activist Chen Guangcheng following his release from prison.

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