Liu Xia Spends Another Birthday Under House Arrest

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china-liu-xia-dec-2012.jpg Liu Xia speaks to visitors at her apartment in Beijing on Dec. 28, 2012.

Activists across China on Tuesday renewed their campaign for the release of Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, as she spent another birthday under house arrest.

Liu Xia has been held under house arrest at the couple's Beijing home since her husband's Nobel Peace Prize was announced in October 2010, suffering from depression in the couple's Beijing apartment.

"I have just spoken to her; I called her to wish her a happy birthday," Beijing-based writer Liu Di told RFA's Cantonese Service.

"Her mood seems slightly improved from when I last called her two weeks ago."

"Her health is OK; her heart condition isn't severe and she just needs to take her medication."

However, Liu Di declined to give Liu Xia's phone number.

"We're not giving her number to any media, or we are worried that we will never be able to contact her again," she said, in a reference to potential official reprisals.

Hong Kong campaign

Meanwhile, rights activists in Hong Kong called on the general public to show support for Liu Xia by joining in a prolonged "wall of sound" wishing her "Happy Birthday."

Supporters of the Liu Xia Concern Group, who shaved their heads in solidarity with the Lius on Valentine's Day, said they hoped Liu Xia wouldn't feel lonely on her birthday, amid concerns raised by rights groups that she is at risk of severe mental health problems brought on by her isolation in house arrest.

"We want to express our support to everyone, so that she won't feel empty on her birthday," the group's spokeswoman Lau Ka-yee told RFA.

"We hope she will hear our sound of support."

Call for Liu Xiaobo's release

Hong Kong legislator and labor activist Lee Cheuk-yan said the "wall of sound" was also a call for Liu Xiaobo's release.

"We want your freedom and Liu Xiaobo's freedom," he said during the "wall of sound" protest.

"We will continue to walk with you and support you."

"Any pressure we manage to bring to bear, however slight, please tell us," Lee said. "Happy Birthday."

Restrictions on other activists

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said he had been placed under surveillance and prevented from leaving his apartment ahead of Liu Xia's birthday.

"It seems that my house arrest is continuous now; first [the death of rights activist] Cao Shunli, then the parliamentary sessions, then it was because of Michelle Obama," Hu said.

"Since March 30, it has been because of Liu Xia's birthday."

He said he and some of Liu Xia's friends had ordered a birthday cake to be delivered to her home on Tuesday as she turned 53 years old.

"She will have no celebration, no freedom, and no security," Hu said. "Even wishing her happy birthday could be painful to her, because she has so little access to happiness."

Psychological stress

Meanwhile, the U.K.-based chapter of the London-based rights group Amnesty International set up a dedicated web page calling on activists to send an e-mail of protest over Liu Xia's continued house arrest to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"Security guards surround Liu Xia's home," the web page, which had logged more than 1,300 sent e-mails on Tuesday afternoon local time, said.

"She is not allowed to leave and she is not allowed visitors. Demand an end to these restrictions on her freedom."

The group said Liu Xia continues to be at risk from severe mental health problems brought on by stress and anxiety about her family.

"Liu Xia's most recent medical examinations suggest that she is mainly suffering from psychological stress, anxiety and depression - severe mental health problems that multiple doctors warned will worsen unless her current living conditions change," the group's information page said.

Liu Xiaobo, 58, a literary critic and former professor, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" in a decision that infuriated Beijing, which says he has broken Chinese law.

He has been held since 2008 after helping to draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of supporters, and is serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power."

Liu Xia has recently called on the government to allow her to get a job to support herself financially after her brother Liu Hui was jailed for 11 years last year on charges of fraud, which his lawyers say were a pretext for political retaliation against the family.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese Service and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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