Marriage, inconvenience and Liu Xiaobo - one year on

What a difference a year makes.

It seems longer in a way since the last announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, yet on the eve of the revelation of this year’s recipient, I wonder how the intervening year has felt for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

When the announcement was made last year the Chilean miners had just announced that they would be guests of honour at a Manchester United game, the student fee protests were in full swing,  the son of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour had just apologised about climbing the cenotaph and a WikiLeaks cable had just revealed that the US were convinced Hosni Mubarak had already pre-rigged the next election in what “will be his 30th year in power in Egypt”.

That puts the elapsed time in perspective a bit. Yet in that year, Liu Xiaobo has languished in jail, in incarceration simply for proposing ways in which China could introduce reform and democracy. He was charged with “inciting subversion to state power” and sentenced to 11 years in 2008.

His wife, Liu Xia, was neither charged, nor tried. However, since the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, she has been held under house arrest with virtually no access to the outside world. In the Guardian earlier this week, Amnesty’s Corinna-Barbara Francis noted that this lack of legal status makes Liu Xia even more vulnerable as she does not even have a lawyer who could make representations anywhere on her behalf.

When Liu Xia did manage to get online and speak to a friend very briefly earlier this year, she said that she felt she, and her entire family, were being held hostage.

She is an inconvenient reminder about the attention that Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel accolade brought to China and to their treatment of dissenters and critics, and so they have shut her up, physically. I wonder where the beam of scrutiny will fall this year, see the Guardian’s speculations here.

The Telegraph reports today that, according to his brother, Liu Xiaobo was allowed a rare visit to his father’s funeral last month. Perhaps this implies that the Chinese authorities are considering loosening their vice-like grip as a new recipient steps into the limelight. When asked whether he would give an interview about Liu Xiaobo the dissident’s brother guardedly said, it was not “convenient”. Inconvenience, then, is proving something of a family theme.

Amnesty is calling for the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo and his wife.  

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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