Liu Xia, the wife of jailed dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has spoken to journalists from Associated Press who were able to sneak past her guards (Liu has been under house arrest for over two years) while they were at lunch.
“We live in such an absurd place,” she said. “It is so absurd. I felt I was a person emotionally prepared to respond to the consequences of Liu Xiaobo winning the prize. But after he won the prize, I really never imagined that after he won, I would not be able to leave my home. This is too absurd. I think Kafka could not have written anything more absurd and unbelievable than this.”
The authoritarian government’s detention of the Liu couple, one in a prison 280 miles (450 kilometers) northeast of Beijing and the other in a fifth floor apartment, underscores its determination to keep the 57-year-old peace laureate from becoming an inspiration to other Chinese, either by himself or through her.
Though she is forbidden to discuss the specifics of her situation with her husband, Liu says he knows that she is also under detention.
“He understands more or less,” she said. “I told him: ‘I am going through what you are going through almost.'”
Earlier this week, 134 Nobel laureates signed an open letter to Xi Jinping requesting he “immediately and unconditionally release” Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia.
Emmanouil Athanasiou of the International Committee for Liu Xiaobo pointed out that China is “the only country in the world having a Nobel Peace Prize laureate behind bars. And this is an unacceptable situation. Legally, politically, and morally.” Burmese dissident and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is now a member of parliament in that country, which has made considerable strides towards reforming its authoritarian, at times genocidal, state.
Responding to the laureates’ letter, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that it constituted “an interference in China’s internal affairs” (this is one of two stock Foreign Ministry responses, the other is that an action or statement “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”).
“China is a law-abiding country. Liu Xiaobo was lawfully sentenced to a fixed-term imprisonment by the judicial organ because he committed an offense against Chinese law,” he said. “The Chinese government opposes outsiders handling matters in any way that would interfere in its judicial sovereignty and internal matters.”
Hong would not comment on which law exactly it was that Liu had broken. Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China guarantees citizens “freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Party authorities, when they bother to defend their actions, point to the Preamble to the Constitution, which states that it is to be guided by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, effectively giving the Party carte blanche to do as it pleases.