Liu Xiaobo cremated in ‘private ceremony’, amid fears for wife’s safety

Liu Xia attends the cremation, but rights activists say they have not heard from her in three days

The Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiaobo has been cremated in north-eastern China, Chinese authorities have announced, amid growing fears for the safety of his wife, Liu Xia.

The veteran dissident died on Thursday, aged 61, becoming the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since the 1935 recipient, German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, died under surveillance after years confined to Nazi concentration camps.

Speaking at a press conference in the city of Shenyang, where Liu died, government spokesperson Zhang Qingyang said his cremation had taken place at a local funeral parlour following a short mourning service early on Saturday morning.

Lius body was cremated in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs, Chinas official news agency, Xinhua, said in a brief dispatch.

Zhang claimed the private ceremony had been attended by family and good friends of the dissident although friends and supporters have said they were ordered not to travel to Shenyang by Chinese security services. Mozarts Requiem was played.

The spokesman told reporters Lius wife, the poet and photographer Liu Xia, had been in attendance and had been given her husbands ashes. She was in very low spirits, he added, according to AFP.

As the revered democracy activist was cremated, friends of the couple said they were growing increasingly concerned about the well-being of Liu Xia. The 56-year-old has been living under heavy surveillance and in almost total isolation since her husband won the Nobel prize, in 2010, and had hoped to leave China along with Liu Xiaobo before his death.

We have lost touch with her now for three full days, Jared Genser, a US human rights lawyer who represents her and her late husband, told the Guardian. Im incredibly concerned about her health and welfare.

China News Service, a Communist party-controlled news agency, claimed on Friday that Liu Xia was a free woman who was deliberately shunning her friends and relatives because she wanted to grieve in peace.

Zhang, the government spokesman, repeated those claims on Saturday as Lius cremation was announced. Liu Xia is free, he said, according to Reuters, without revealing her whereabouts. I believe the relevant departments will protect Liu Xias rights according to the law, Zhang added.

According to AFP, Zhang claimed Liu Xia was emotionally grieving and did not want too much outside interference.

Funeral
Funeral ceremony for Liu Xiaobo. Photograph: Supplied

Genser rejected claims that Liu Xia was free as a sick joke.

It leaves me incredulous to think that the Chinese government would think that anybody would believe such a claim: that she is grieving and does not want to be disturbed. I mean, come on. That is just totally ridiculous.

Genser added: We all know the truth. The truth is clear as day. She has been under house arrest without charge or trial for seven years and even after her husband is dead that appears not to be good enough for the Chinese government.

Shang Baojun, a Chinese lawyer who represented Liu Xiaobo and was his friend, said he had not attended the funeral. I know nothing about it, he said by phone, before explaining that it was not convenient to talk a common expression in China indicating that someone is coming under pressure from authorities to stay silent.

The Global Times, a Communist party controlled tabloid, chose to mark Lius cremation with a vicious personal assault. He was paranoid, naive and arrogant, the newspaper said in an English-language editorial. Chinese society opposes and despises him.

Deification of Liu by the west will be eventually overshadowed by Chinas denial of him, it added, branding the Nobel laureate a disruptive player to Chinas development theme.

Genser called for international pressure to help Liu Xia escape this Kafkaesque nightmare that has been her life.

My heart breaks for her. It is just terrible. We have to get her out. We cant live in a world in which she is not free, he said.

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/15/liu-xiaobo-cremated-in-shenyang-amid-growing-fears-for-safety-of-his-wife