By Becky Davis
Shenyang, China (AFP) July 14, 2017
China faced international calls Friday to free the widow of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo after global condemnation over the Communist regime's refusal to grant the democracy champion's dying wish to leave the country.
The United States and the European Union urged President Xi Jinping's government to let Liu's widow, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010, leave the country.
Chinese doctors said she was by her husband's side when he lost his battle with liver cancer on Thursday at age 61, more than a month after he was transferred from prison to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Liu's main doctor said he was able to say goodbye to his 56-year-old wife and in his final moments told her to "live well".
But authorities have restricted her contact with the outside world and her whereabouts were unknown following the death of her husband, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests whose advocacy for democratic reform infuriated the government.
"I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
The EU urged Beijing to let Liu Xia and her family bury the dead democracy campaigner "at a place and in a manner of their choosing, and to allow them to grieve in peace".
Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represented Liu, said all contact with Liu Xia had been cut off in the past 48 hours.
"I am deeply worried about what's happening with her right now," Genser told CNN, adding that it would be hard for the government to still justify holding her without charges.
"The world really needs to rally and mobilise to make sure she can go wherever she wants and that she can bury her husband wherever she wants," he said.
Liu Xia's parents both died over the last year, and the poet, who was never interested in politics, has suffered from depression, according to friends.
"After the death of Liu Xiaobo, our most important goal is to save Liu Xia from the bitter sea," Hu Jia, a Beijing-based activist, told AFP.
"We will also use public opinion and public opinion pressure to urge the Chinese Communist Party to open the cage door, so Liu Xia can get free" along with her brother, Hu said.
- China rejects criticism -
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang rejected the criticism of China's handling of Liu's death, adding that doctors made "all-out" efforts to treat him.
"China is a country under the rule of law. The handling of Liu Xiaobo's case belongs to China's internal affairs, and foreign countries are in no position to make improper remarks," Geng was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
His remarks came after Britain hit out at China for preventing Liu from travelling overseas for treatment while Germany voiced regret that Beijing ignored its offer to host him.
Western doctors who visited Liu last weekend concluded he still had time to travel, but Chinese doctors said Thursday his health had abruptly deteriorated, making it too dangerous to move him.
Liu was jailed in 2008 after co-writing a petition calling for democratic reforms. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "subversion" a year later.
He became the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1938, who had been held by the Nazis.
The Chinese political prisoner was represented by an empty chair at his Nobel prize ceremony in Oslo in 2010.
The Nobel Committee said Thursday the government "bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death".
- Muted reactions -
But some of the global reaction to his death was muted, highlighting China's emergence as an economic and diplomatic superpower on the world stage.
US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron offered praise instead for Chinese President Xi Jinping at a press conference in Paris and only voiced sadness for Liu later in statements.
In a sign of China's growing confidence, the state-controlled Global Times newspaper said in an English-language editorial that "the West has bestowed upon Liu a halo, which will not linger".
The government strived over the years to erase any memory of Liu and a search for his death turned up nothing on Baidu, China's Google-like search engine.
China's censors raced to scrub social media networks of images of candles and "RIP" tributes following his death.
World reacts with praise, sadness to Liu death
Liu, a government critic and thorn in the side of the authorities for decades, died in custody, having been sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for "subversion".
His death brought criticism for Chinese authorities who refused international pleas to let him receive treatment abroad.
- Nobel committee -
"We find it deeply disturbing that Liu Xiaobo was not transferred to a facility where he could receive adequate medical treatment before he became terminally ill," Berit Reiss-Andersen, who chairs the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in a statement.
"The Chinese government bears a heavy responsibility for his premature death."
- United States -
US President Donald Trump initially refrained from commenting on Liu's death and avoided criticising Beijing at a joint press conference in Paris with French leader Emmanuel Macron.
He instead used the occasion to praise China's leader Xi Jinping as a friend and patriot.
Several hours later, the White House released a statement about Liu.
"President Donald J. Trump was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and prominent Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo," it said.
"The president's heartfelt condolences go out to Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, and his family and friends. A poet, scholar, and courageous advocate, Liu Xiaobo dedicated his life to the pursuit of democracy and liberty."
Earlier, Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had praised Liu and called for his widow, the poet Liu Xia, to be released from house arrest.
And the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called Liu "a true champion for freedom and an inspiration to those longing for democracy around the world."
- Germany -
"I mourn Liu Xiaobo, the courageous fighter for human rights and freedom of expression," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted on her behalf.
"His family has my deep sympathies."
Germany had said it was prepared to welcome Liu for medical treatment after he was transferred from prison to hospital.
- United Nations -
"The human rights movement in China and across the world has lost a principled champion who devoted his life to defending and promoting human rights, peacefully and consistently, and who was jailed for standing up for his beliefs," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said in a statement.
"Liu Xiaobo was the true embodiment of the democratic, non-violent ideals he so ardently advocated."
- European Union -
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and EU president Donald Tusk said in a joint statement that they had learned of Liu's death "with deep sadness".
"We appeal to the Chinese authorities to allow his wife, Ms Liu Xia and his family to bury Liu Xiaobo at a place and in a manner of their choosing, and to allow them to grieve in peace," Juncker and Tusk said.
"We call on the authorities to remove all restrictions on the movement and communications of his family members."
- France -
Like Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron also initially avoided discussing Liu's death, focusing instead on his "extremely fruitful and positive" contacts with Xi.
The French leader later remembered Liu in a tweet, praising him as "a freedom fighter" and saying his thoughts were with his family.
- Britain -
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson hit out at China for preventing Liu from seeking cancer treatment abroad.
"Liu Xiaobo should have been allowed to choose his own medical treatment overseas, which the Chinese authorities repeatedly denied him," Johnson said in a statement.
- Chinese dissidents -
Chen Guangcheng, one of China's best-known activists who fled to the United States in 2012, said Liu was "deliberately killed" by the country's rulers and urged the international community to maintain pressure on Beijing.
"We need to see his death as not a natural, normal death," Chen told AFP in a telephone interview from Washington.
"He was killed by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), deliberately killed by them."
Chen said China had refused to allow Liu to travel abroad for treatment because they "were likely to discover what was really wrong with him and would probably reveal that they had been harming him with medication or some such things."
"As a vocal outspoken Nobel prize winner, he would likely speak out about what has happened to him, and that's another thing that the Chinese Communist Party did not want to have happen," Chen added.
Beijing (AFP) July 10, 2017
China's cancer-stricken Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo is in a critical condition, his hospital said Monday, raising fears about his life after Western doctors said there was time to take him abroad. The First Hospital of China Medical University in the northeastern city of Shenyang said Liu's tumour has grown, his liver is bleeding and he has kidney problems. The hospital said in a statement ... read more
China News from SinoDaily.com
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