Police Detain, Summon Supporters of Liu Xiaobo After Controversial Funeral

2017-07-17
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Liu Xiaobo's widow Liu Xia holds his photo as an unidentified man (R) carries an urn holding his ashes.
Liu Xiaobo's widow Liu Xia holds his photo as an unidentified man (R) carries an urn holding his ashes.
Shenyang City News Bureau

Authorities in China on Monday continued to detain supporters of Liu Xiaobo in the wake of his death from liver cancer last week and the sea burial of his ashes at the weekend, activist told RFA.

Liu's funeral took place on Saturday in the form of a shipboard burial of an urn of his ashes. While the government released video footage of his widow Liu Xia agreeing with the plan, sources close to the family said her remarks couldn't be taken at face value.

Meanwhile, police across China summoned or detained Liu's supporters and well-wishers, who were unable to attend the funeral in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

The official video of the event depicted Liu Xia and relatives lowering an urn into waters off the northeastern coastal city of Dalian, two days after Liu's death in custody in Liaoning's provincial capital Shenyang.

Commentators said the ruling Chinese Communist Party wanted to avoid creating a focus for memorial activities for Liu in the future, which could in turn provide a focus for opposition activities.

Liu Xiaobo's brother, Liu Xiaoguang, told a government-organized news conference that the burial was in accordance with the family's wishes, thanking the party for its humane treatment of his brother.

But a friend of Liu Xiaobo's told RFA on Monday that Liu Xia had never wanted a sea burial.

"You can't believe anything she says when she is in a situation where she has no freedom whatsoever," the friend said.  "I definitely don't think Liu Xia would have agreed to a sea burial."

"She should be allowed to leave the country."

'Totally staged'

Beijing-based rights activist and close family friend Hu Jia agreed.

"There's no way that Liu Xia would have wanted this," Hu said. "Liu Xiaobo's home was in Beijing, and the best memories of his life were there, so it would have been far better for his wife to have his final resting place here."

"The whole family ... wanted him laid to rest in Beijing, so this is all totally staged ... How could they possibly want to thank the party and government [of their accord]?"

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China said the authorities are currently refusing to release Liu's personal effects back to his family.

"The authorities are refusing to hand over various belongings left by Liu Xiaobo including handwritten papers and books," the group said in a statement on Monday. "Liu Xia is still working to try to get them back."

Meanwhile, rights activists Ding Jiaxi, Zhu Chengzhi, Xu Guangli, and Peng Peiyu all remained incommunicado after traveling to the northeastern province of Liaoning in the hope of attending Liu's funeral, they said.

"Ding is in Chifeng [Inner Mongolia]," an activist surnamed Li told RFA. "I just got off the phone with him. He is still with the state security police, and he isn't free."

Banned images

Social media reports indicated that around 19 images relating to Liu's illness and death, including a cartoon of him ascending to heaven clad in angel wings and a halo, still wearing his prison-issue pajamas, have been banned from the popular social media app WeChat.

Liu's supporters have been spreading the risk among themselves, with a "one person, one photo" campaign to memorialize Liu online.

"This was a spontaneous movement," Li said. "Nobody told them to do this."

But he said even posting the photos in China can get someone into trouble with the police.

"Xie Dan from Chongqing was just called in by police for questioning," he said. "I think there will be incidents like this across the country."

Other supporters shared a popular song titled "Ocean" by late Taiwan popstar Chang Yu-sheng, which begins with the words "as I watch you slowly disappear from view from the distant sea-shore, I can see your face more clearly."

"But I can only suppress what I want to say ... If only the sea would wash away my grief as it does the rivers."

Strangers


Friend and fellow activist Ye Du said Liu's brother had pretty much cut off contact with Liu after his participation in the 1989 student-led democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, and couldn't represent the families' wishes.

"He is part of a group that benefits from the Communist Party system," Ye said. "They may be blood relations, but they might as well be strangers."

Liu's death prompted a rally of thousands in Hong Kong on Saturday, who marched through the city streets holding candles in the dissident's memory.

The rally came just one day after four pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified from Hong Kong's Legislative Council, fatally weakening the pro-democracy vote in the chamber, amid a continual erosion of the city's traditional freedoms and autonomy in recent years.

Rights activists around the world continued to call for Liu Xia, who has been under constant surveillance and house arrest since her husband's Nobel Peace Prize was announced in October 2010, to be allowed to seek medical treatment overseas for her own physical and mental health problems.

Reported by Dai Weisen and Wong Si-lam for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin and Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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