HONG KONG—Tight police controls over the wife of jailed Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo are hampering a legal challenge to the dissident's 11-year prison sentence for subversion, his lawyer said on Monday.
Liu Xiaobo's lawyer, Shang Baojun, said the tight controls imposed on Liu Xia following the announcement on Oct. 8 that her husband would receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize have prompted him to shelve the appeal for the time being.
"I am working on [the preparations for the appeal]," Shang said. "But I want to wait until things are somewhat easier for Liu Xia."
"It would be an appeal to the High People's Court [in Beijing]," he said, but added that it would proceed only if there is no further threat to Liu Xia, who he said is still under effective house arrest at the couple's Beijing home.
"I haven't had any news of her," he said. "She is still under house arrest. Last week there was something urgent we wanted to talk to her about, but we had no way of contacting her.
Liu Xia's mobile phone service appears to have been canceled, and she is only occasionally able to send updates to the outside world via Twitter.
Even those updates would be hard to find for most ordinary Chinese Web users who don't already know where to look, as authorities are currently blocking any news of Liu or his Nobel prize on domestic websites.
"All the websites inside Chinese have blocked [news of Liu Xiaobo]," Liu's brother Liu Xiaoxuan said. "You can't get any news or information regarding my brother now."
"Liu Xia is under surveillance. Whenever she goes out, she is accompanied by [national security] police. We don't contact her now unless there's a special reason."
Liu Xia said on Saturday via the microblogging service Twitter that she had been "invited" to go around a shopping mall by the police in charge of watching her.
"A policeman said to me that his wife's birthday was coming up, and he asked me to go around the mall with him," Liu Xia tweeted.
She said the authorities appear to want her to be seen outside the house, so they can deny reports she is being held against her will.
Ban on celebrations
Police across China have swooped down in recent days on any activists trying to organize celebratory events in honor of Liu's Nobel prize, which infuriated Beijing. Chinese officials have repeatedly hit out at the decision by the Nobel committee, calling Liu Xiaobo a "criminal" and saying his award demonstrates a lack of respect for Chinese laws.
While many pro-democracy activists in and outside China still hope that Liu's Nobel Peace Prize will boost the cause of democracy, freedom, and human rights, some forecast tougher times ahead as the authorities launch a new clampdown on anyone connected with Liu or China's civil rights movement.
The official Global News website said it had carried out a poll of 955 residents of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, 71 percent of whom didn't know to whom this year's Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded.
It said around 60 percent of respondents said they thought the Nobel committee should revoke the award and apologize to China.
But it added that 24 percent said they thought that Liu should be released.
Liu was sentenced in December 2009 to 11 years in prison for his role in authoring Charter 08, a document calling for sweeping changes in China's government.
A pro-democracy manifesto that called on the Communist Party to enact political reforms and uphold the constitutional rights of Chinese citizens, Charter 08 was signed by 303 mainland intellectuals and sent shock waves through the highest echelons of China’s leadership.
While more than 100 Chinese scholars, lawyers, and reform campaigners had lobbied the Nobel committee on behalf of Liu, a number of dissidents also opposed his nomination, accusing him of not being critical enough of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The exiled Dalai Lama, also a Nobel laureate, pressed China for the release of Liu and of others "imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression."
Previous Nobel Peace Prize laureates include Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Archibishop Desmond Tutu.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.