Detained China Nobel wife speaks out

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“I don’t keep track of the days anymore,” she said. “That’s how it is.”

Two years ago this coming Monday, the Nobel committee held LiuXiaobo’s award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, with an empty chair on stage to mark his absence. The Chinese government kept Liu Xia and other activists from attending and pressured foreign diplomats to stay away. For a time, the empty chair became a symbol of support for Liu on the Internet.

During a rare phone interview with the AP a few days after the award was announced, Liu Xia sounded hopeful her confinement would be brief: “I’m sure that for a moment the pressure will be greater, I will have even less freedom, even more inconvenience, but I believe they won’t go on like this forever and that there will be positive change in the future.”

But little has changed, for her or her husband. The Foreign Ministry this week reiterated its position that LiuXiaobo is a convicted criminal and that giving him the peace prize represented “external interference in China’s judicial sovereignty and domestic affairs.”

This week, attention turns again to another Nobel awards ceremony, this one in Stockholm, Sweden, where the shadow of LiuXiaobo is expected to hang over Mo’s moment of glory.

A prolific writer of raw and magical fiction centered on rural Chinese life, Mo is often savagely critical of officials in his stories, but he has faced criticism for not being a more outspoken defendant of freedom of speech and for being a member of the Communist Party-backed writers’ association.

When asked about Liu at a meeting with reporters after being named literature prize winner in October, Mo said he hoped for his early release, but did not push the issue.

Mo dodged questions about Liu at a news conference in Stockholm on Thursday, noting that he had already expressed his opinion and suggesting that people could search the Internet to find those remarks.

He also said that although the truth should not be censored, defamation and rumors should be. He likened censorship a security check at an airport and said, “I think these checks are necessary.” His comments were translated by an interpreter from Chinese into English.

Other Nobel laureates have been more outspoken. An appeal this week by 134 Nobel laureates, from peace prize winners like South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Taiwanese-American chemist Yuan T. Lee, called the Lius‘ detention a violation of international law and urged their immediate release.

“This flagrant violation of the basic right to due process and free expression must be publicly and forcefully confronted by the international community,” said the laureates’ appeal.

Until Thursday’s unexpected interview, the last images of Liu Xia were released in October by the Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, which didn’t say how it obtained them. The grainy video showed a lone woman smoking by her apartment window at night.

Associated Press writer Louise Nordstrom contributed to this report from Stockholm.

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