Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, in happier days
It’s that time of the year again — Norway’s Nobel Committee has met to decide who should be the winner of its peace prize this year. Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland says the choice has “not been particularly difficult” this time round while pundits are placing their bets on representatives of the Arab Spring revolution which swept across the Middle East earlier this year. Among the top contenders are Google executive Wael Ghonim from Egypt, and Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni. Jagland also took the opportunity to defend the decision to award last year’s prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, even though that immediately led to frozen Sino-Norwegian ties and possibly made life more difficult for Liu:
“The reactions (from China) were as expected. They were not more extreme than what we expected,” he said.
“We had thought a lot about the consequences for Liu Xiaobo. We are worried about him and it is therefore very important that any discussions with Chinese authorities include raising his case and that we don’t let these Chinese authorities treat Liu Xiaobo any way they want,” he said.
“We did not expect that he would suddenly be freed. We knew that it would be more difficult for Liu. But I think that the Nobel is such an encouragement for human rights activists that it will show its true importance in the long term.”
Meanwhile, Liu Xia, the wife of the Nobel laureate, who was placed under house arrest soon after he was announced the winner, continues to remain locked up within the four walls of her own home with zero contact to the outside world:
She has largely been held incommunicado, effectively under house arrest, watched by police, without phone or Internet access and prohibited from seeing all but a few family members.
“Liu Xia has been completely cut off from communication with the outside world, and leads a lonely and oppressed life,” said Beijing activist Zeng Jinyan, the wife of another well-known dissident who has endured bouts of surveillance and harassment. “It has already been a year, I dare not imagine how much longer she must bear this pain.”