BEIJING — In the telephone call, a Chinese woman vents her despair between hoarse sobs. It would be easier to die, she says. Her appeals to escape stifling house arrest have failed repeatedly, despite offers from Germany to take her in, she says.
The woman, Liu Xia, is a poet and artist and the widow of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and died under police guard in July. A recording of her call, released this week, has thrown glaring attention on the plight of Ms. Liu, who is living under constant police surveillance in her Beijing home.
“There’s nothing left to make me reluctant to leave this world,” Ms. Liu said in the call a week ago with Liao Yiwu, an exiled Chinese writer in Germany who released a written account of their conversation and a seven-minute recording of the call. “Xiaobo has gone,” Ms. Liu said, referring to her husband.
“It would be easier to die than to live,” she said. “Nothing would be simpler for me than dying in defiance.”
Mr. Liao said he released his account of their call to publicize Ms. Liu’s situation: under house arrest and pervasive police watch, unable to leave China, and trapped in depression that was damaging her health. Ms. Liu’s isolation has not eased in the nine months since her husband’s death, although she has not been publicly accused of any crime.
Mr. Liao, a longtime friend of Ms. Liu, and other supporters said they hoped that her anguished words would move foreign governments to press harder to secure Ms. Liu’s freedom so that she could move abroad and receive care.
Ms. Liu’s case may become a sore point when the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, visits Beijing this month for talks with President Xi Jinping.
“Liu Xia’s agony is palpable,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy group. “There is no unhearing her voice.”
Mr. Liu died at age 61 of liver cancer that was belatedly revealed while he was serving an 11-year prison sentence, mainly for spearheading a pro-democratic petition called Charter 08. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for what the committee called “his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Ms. Liu, 57, has been under police watch ever since; like her husband, she was not allowed to go to Oslo to collect the prize.
Since Mr. Liu’s death, German diplomats and other supporters of Ms. Liu have been trying to arrange her move to Germany, and the German ambassador to Beijing publicly raised her case in late April.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said repeatedly that Ms. Liu is free to move as she pleases. Yet her requests to leave her house have been frustrated, friends of Ms. Liu have said.
In the first months of this year, Ms. Liu held to the hope that she and her brother, Liu Hui, would be allowed to leave China after a succession of sensitive political events, including a legislative meeting that abolished term limits on China’s presidency, said Hu Jia, a longtime dissident in Beijing who said he has kept in indirect contact with Ms. Liu through friends and relatives.
“The authorities led her to believe that after the legislative meeting, her problems would be addressed,” Mr. Hu said by telephone. But her telephone call with Mr. Liao reflected her realization that her hopes had been inflated, Mr. Hu said.
“For the past half year we’ve been prisoners of false hopes,” he said. “Her phone call with Liao Yiwu on April 30 showed that she felt the authorities have been cheating her. She was waiting and waiting, and then grasped what was happening.”
In her call, Ms. Liu said that she was prepared to leave China at any time, but was cut off from the means to push requests to leave.
“The German Embassy knows all about my situation, the whole world knows. Why go on writing those things again and again?” Ms. Liu says in the account of the phone call that Ms. Liao issued. “I have nowhere to send things, no mobile phone, no computer.”
The German Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that German officials would continue talking with the Chinese government about Ms. Liu. The State Department has also repeatedly called for her to be allowed to move freely.
“We have no information that Liu Xia has been accused of a committing a crime in China, and she should therefore be allowed to travel for humanitarian reasons,” the German ministry said in a statement released Thursday. “Should Liu Xia want to come to Germany, she would always be welcome.”
Ms. Liu’s limbo reflects the growing reluctance of Western governments to press for concessions from Beijing on human rights, especially the treatment of Chinese people imprisoned or confined for their political activities or associations, several rights advocates said.
Her confinement violated China’s commitments to a United Nations Convention against Torture, as well as other international and domestic laws, said Ms. Richardson of Human Rights Watch.
“The German government should now realize that it doesn’t really help by quiet diplomacy,” Patrick Poon, a researcher in Hong Kong with Amnesty International who has followed Ms. Liu’s case, said by email. “Only public demands and pressure on the Chinese government can help in a sensitive case like Liu Xia.”
In an open letter, the German branch of PEN, the writers group, urged the mayor of Trier, Germany, to delay the dedication of a superhero-sized statue of Karl Marx donated to the city by China, until Ms. Liu was released. “I am sure that this would be in the spirit of Karl Marx,” as a symbol of freedom of expression, the letter read.
In the recording of Ms. Liu’s call, she breaks down in choking sobs. Mr. Liao tries to calm her by playing a piano recording of “Dona Dona,” a Yiddish song. Ms. Liu keeps sobbing and slowly steadies her voice.
“They keep forcing me to do the impossible,” she says at end.
via New York Times https://nyti.ms/2gVZ2VB
May 4, 2018 at 05:30PM