Widow of Late Chinese Dissident 'In Yunnan' as Traditional Mourning Period Ends

Liu Xia, widow of late political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, is being held at an unknown location amid fears for her mental health.

Liu Xiaobo's widow Liu Xia holds his photo as an unidentified man (R) carries an urn holding his ashes.

Seven weeks after the death of Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, his wife is still being held in an unknown location by the authorities, sources told RFA on Tuesday.

Liu Xia hasn't been seen in public, or by friends and close family, since she was photographed at her husband's sea-burial shortly after his death on July 13.

Officials have said she is "free, but grief-stricken" and doesn't want to be disturbed.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, who is a close friend of Liu Xia's, said she is being held under illegal detention by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the southwestern province of Yunnan, however.

"We are actually extremely worried about Liu Xia, and we think she is at even more risk than Liu Xiaobo was [during his lifetime]," Hu said. "The authorities aren't even going to discuss [letting her return home] ahead of the 19th Party Congress."

Hu said Liu isn't even being allowed to go out to carry out traditional widow's mourning rites, seven weeks after his death.

"They have told her she has no hope of being allowed to go outside before next year's National People's Congress annual session [in March in Beijing]," he said. "After that, then they'll see, but she has to go along with it for now."

"The authorities have stepped up their security alert and their stability maintenance measures for that whole period," Hu said.

"Apart from knowing that she is in Dali, Yunnan, I have had no news of her whatsoever," he added.

Liu Xiaobo's late diagnosis, and the refusal of the government to allow him to go overseas on medical parole, had sparked widespread public anger, with the governments of Germany and the U.S. offering him the best possible treatment.

Suspicious video

Concerns are growing over the mental and physical health of Liu Xia, who has suffered depression and heart problems under house arrest since October 2010, and has reportedly asked to be allowed to go overseas to seek treatment herself.

On Aug. 18, a video of Liu Xia in which she said she was "safe" leaked online.

"I am now in retreat out of town," she said. "Please give me time."

But her friends said at the time that the video was likely scripted and produced by the authorities, as it repeated official claims about her status.

China increasingly uses scripted statements and video "confessions" by detainees under duress to back up its narrative about their "crimes" or their mental state.

But Liu Xia's friend, Guangdong-based writer Ye Du, said he doesn't believe she is well.

"Liu Xia's mental state is bound to be unstable," Ye told RFA. "I think everyone who knows her is going to be worried about her."

A number of social media users have been detained in recent weeks for posting supportive or commemorative statements about Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, including one social media user who asked to remain anonymous.

"Of course they are going to warn people off," the social media user said. "But nobody here pays any heed to them."

"They are doing it because it's their job."

Memorials for Liu Xiaobo

An activist surnamed Huang in the southern province of Guangdong said he and several others were detained for carrying memorials for Liu Xiaobo and posting to social media about it.

"They have all been sent back to their hometowns where they are under surveillance by their local governments, and they're not allowed to leave," Huang said. "There were a lot of people in Guangdong in this situation."

A second anonymous activist said he plans to post online in memory of Liu Xiaobo on the seventh week after his death, which falls on Aug. 31.

"We all want to take this opportunity, the last in the seven-week mourning period, to commemorate Liu Xiaobo," the activist said. "We want to protest against this dictatorial regime, and preparations are being made among people here and organizations overseas."

"Here in China, we have to prepare in secret, because the authorities will take steps to prevent any sort of mass event," he said. "Any form of honest self-expression is a threat, so far as they're concerned."

The first seven-day mourning rites after Liu Xiaobo's death were observed in secret by activists in mainland China, and more openly in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Activists visited beaches and shorelines, making offerings in memory of the burial of Liu's ashes in an urn at sea in defiance of attempts by Chinese officials to prevent democracy and rights activists from making a shrine to him after death.

Activists used candles, flowers, portraits of Liu and empty chairs as a focus for their offerings, in a reference to the empty chair that represented him at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in Oslo.

At the time of his death at the age of 61, Liu had been serving an 11-year jail term for "incitement to subvert state power," linked to his online writings promoting democracy and constitutional government. They included Charter 08, a document that was signed by more than 300 prominent scholars, writers, and rights activists around the country.

In the document, the former literature professor called for concerned Chinese citizens to rally to bring about change, citing an increasing loss of control by the Communist Party and heightened hostility between the authorities and ordinary people.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.