China 'denies' jail visits to Nobel winner

2010-12-17 08:59
Beijing - The Chinese prison where Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is held has suspended visits by his family members and his wife remains under house arrest, a week after the award ceremony, a human rights group said on Friday.

Liu's brother Liu Xiaoguang told the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy that the Jinzhou prison notified the family of the suspension recently. The rights centre announced it on the family's behalf.

The telephone at the prison rang unanswered.

China's ruling Communist Party was furious over the peace prize. It kept dozens of Liu supporters from leaving the country to attend the ceremony, put others under house arrest around the time of the ceremony and lobbied other governments not to attend.

Liu's absence at the prize ceremony on December 10 in Oslo, Norway, was marked by an empty chair. He was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison for subversion over his democracy advocacy.

Another empty chair was for Liu's wife, Liu Xia. Her father and Liu Xiaoguang told the rights centre she remains under house arrest and can't even go out to buy vegetables.

They said Liu Xia's home phone was cut off the day of the ceremony and resumed working only on Friday. She also has no mobile phone access.


Liu's lawyer, Shang Baojun, said he had heard about the family's latest comments.

"I've been unable to reach Liu Xia. So there's no way to confirm anything," he said.

Chinese law entitles a prisoner to a family visit once a month, but Liu Xiaobo apparently had no visit last month. Liu Xia was able to visit him in October under increased security and told him he had been awarded the peace prize, but she was placed under house arrest soon after.

"I can only say there's nothing that can be done," Shang said. "The law states that his family should be allowed to meet him."

Liu Xia's father told the rights centre that the family has no hope of visiting Liu Xiaobo this month.

He also said he and his wife cannot visit Liu Xia either, adding he didn't know why she is under such close watch now that the peace prize ceremony has passed.

Many of the Liu supporters who reported being put under house arrest or being taken on a "vacation" outside Beijing around the time of the peace prize ceremony have re-emerged, though it was never clear whether Liu Xia's restrictions would loosen as well.

"That Liu Xia has been deprived of her personal liberty is a grave violation of her human rights," the rights centre said in its statement.

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