Chinese fury over Nobel prize

2010-10-10 13:33

Jinzhou - The wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo remained missing on Sunday, amid reports police were taking her to a prison in northeast China to inform her husband of the prestigious award.

Liu Xiaobo's lawyers have been unable to contact Liu Xia after she disappeared into police custody on Friday night moments after her husband was awarded the coveted award by the Nobel Committee.

"We have been unable to contact her, so we do not know where she is," lawyer Ding Xikui told AFP.

"We are concerned about her safety. We believe that they (police) are taking her to see Liu Xiaobo, but we have no way of confirming this."

Blocked roads

Roads to the Jinzhou prison in northeast China's Liaoning province were blocked by police on Sunday, with authorities only allowing officials or residents into a large area around the jail where Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion.

Police and officials at the road block refused to tell journalists why they were not permitted to approach the prison and politely urged them to leave the area. Telephones at the prison went unanswered.

Liu, the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is a 54-year-old writer imprisoned since December after authoring Charter 08, a manifesto signed by thousands seeking greater rights in the communist nation.

The selection of Liu as the 2010 winner has enraged the government which called the jailed dissident a "criminal" and slammed the award as a violation of Nobel ideals and a discredit to the Peace Prize.

Leaders around the world including US President Barack Obama - last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner - welcomed the 2010 winner, praising Liu and calling on the Chinese government to release him immediately.

Wife 'elated'

Liu Xia told AFP on Friday she was elated by the award and that police would escort her to the prison so she could tell her husband he had won.

Since then her mobile phone has been turned off and her whereabouts unknown.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an activist group organised through the internet, said police had forcefully removed Liu Xia from Beijing as part of a campaign to suppress the news that Liu had won the award.

China's state-run media has only reported the government's angry denunciation of the prize.

Internet searches using the key words "Nobel Peace Prize" and "Liu Xiaobo" brought up no results on Chinese web portals Sina and Sohu, while similar searches on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, also drew a blank.

No discussion

Access to Google in mainland China has been patchy since the US internet giant got embroiled in a dispute with Beijing over alleged cyberhacking of dissidents' email accounts.

"As expected, Chinese officials have pulled out all the stops to prevent citizens from learning that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo," the Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a statement.

"Officials ordered managers at China’s four main domestic internet portals Ten Cent, Sina, Sohu, and Net Ease to remove pages dedicated to the 2010 Nobel Prizes," it said.

"Online discussion of the Nobel Peace Prize or Liu Xiaobo continues to be actively blocked."