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Monday, October 11,2010

China allows Nobel Peace Prize winner to meet wife

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

BEIJING — In the first whisper of a comment since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 48 hours earlier, imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo sent word through his wife Sunday that he would dedicate the award to activists killed during 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, according to a human rights organization.

The writer's wife, who has been held virtually incommunicado for days by Chinese authorities, was able to talk briefly with her husband at Jinzhou Prison in northern China's Liaoning province. Liu Xia took to her Twitter account to inform supporters that her husband had wept at news of his award, and that she is now under house arrest.

"They were able to meet," said U.S. activist Beth Schwanke of Freedom Now, a Washington-based organization that says it is providing legal representation to the couple. "He began crying as soon as he heard. He said he wanted to dedicate the prize to the martyrs of Tiananmen Square."

Liu, now 54, had been at Columbia University in New York in 1989 when the demonstrations began, but rushed home to advise students. Hundreds were killed when authorities cracked down.

Few other details about Sunday's meeting were available because the writer's wife, herself an activist, has been under close watch by Chinese authorities, who escorted her back to the couple's home in Beijing after the meeting and confiscated her cell phone.

At one point, however, she was able to post a comment on Twitter in which she hinted at the couple's despair at their simultaneous good fortune and immense tragedy. The Nobel Peace Prize is arguably the most prestigious award in the world, in addition to carrying $1.5 million worth of cash.

"Brothers and sisters, I just got back. I have been under house arrest since and have no idea when I can see you all. My cell phone is ruined so I am not able to pick up any phone calls," Liu Xia wrote in the posting under her name, Liuxia64. "We will speak about it little by little."

According to her posting, which was verified by a friend, Liu Xiaobo had been informed Saturday afternoon that he'd won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Liu Xia is an artist and poet who like her husband wears wire-rim glasses and her hair closely shaven. The couple married in the 1990s when he was in political prison.

"Liu Xia is under enormous pressure," said Yang Jianli, one of her legal representatives in a statement released Sunday by Freedom Now. "We hope that world leaders will immediately condemn this shameful act by the Chinese government and urge Liu Xia's immediate and unconditional release."

On Monday, the China Daily denounced Liu as a "criminal who violated Chinese law."

"Like it or not, the Nobel Peace Prize broadens the suspicion that there is a Western plot to contain a rising China," the English-language daily said in an editorial posted on its website.

This is the third time the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a political prisoner. The most notable precedent came in 1991, when it went to Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi — then, as now, under house arrest.


(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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