Chi­nese po­lice guard late dis­si­dent’s home

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: At a small park out­side the Bei­jing home of late Chi­nese No­bel lau­re­ate Liu Xiaobo, se­cu­rity of­fi­cers sat around a stone ta­ble sur­rounded by shrub­bery, scru­ti­n­is­ing ev­ery­one who neared the gate they guarded. More than a week af­ter the No­bel Peace Prize win­ner suc­cumbed to liver can­cer in cus­tody, four agents stood watch on the stoop of the apart­ment where his wi­dow, the poet Liu Xia, has largely been kept un­der house ar­rest since 2010.

Their pres­ence con­tra­dicts of­fi­cial claims last week­end that Liu Xia, 56, is “free”. She ap­peared in a gov­ern­ment-re­leased video on July 15 show­ing her hus­band’s sea burial in the coastal city of Dalian, but close friends have been un­able to reach her and be­lieve that she is un­der po­lice con­trol in south­ern Yun­nan prov­ince. But the med­ley of uni­formed and plain­clothes of­fi­cers out­side her home on Fri­day were un­de­terred in their sur­veil­lance-even if they may have been guard­ing an empty apart­ment.

“Where are you go­ing?” a man wear­ing a “spe­cial duty” uni­form asked two mid­dleaged women who ap­proached. “We live here,” one of them re­torted, as if ac­cus­tomed to the ques­tion. On the other side of the gate, a uni­formed of­fi­cer sat in a chair parked out­side the entrance to Liu Xia’s apart­ment. Three other men sat in­side the dark en­trance­way, in­clud­ing one eat­ing a bowl of noo­dles. They all stood up when an AFP re­porter ap­proached.

“What are you do­ing here? You don’t live in this neigh­bor­hood,” said the uni­formed of­fi­cer, ges­tur­ing for the re­porter to leave. Out­side the gate, se­cu­rity agents talked among them­selves as they waited for their lunch break. “Yes­ter­day there were five to six re­porters who came,” a mid­dle-aged man said to the group. He wore a black Tshirt, the pre­ferred at­tire of plain­clothes agents. “Those for­eign­ers just come here to make trou­ble. They want to take photos of ev­ery­thing. Lunch time is rush hour for them, then things die down af­ter 7 p.m.”

Busi­ness as usual

Ear­lier that day, a four-per­son for­eign television crew had come through one of the com­plex’s main gates. They were soon sur­rounded by of­fi­cers in both black and green uni­forms. “Do you know who Liu Xia is?” one of the jour­nal­ists asked a guard, who barked back: “Never have I met any­one as rude as you!” At around the same time, an AFP pho­tog­ra­pher was held by po­lice who asked him to delete three photos he had taken of the apart­ment ex­te­rior. He did not com­ply, and was shortly re­leased.

All was calm on the river­front board­walk that Liu Xia’s apart­ment over­looked, as jog­gers, bik­ers and fish­er­men alike ap­peared to be un­aware of the com­mo­tion on the other side of the gate. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has erased vir­tu­ally all men­tions of Liu Xiaobo, a 1989 Tianan­men Square protest vet­eran, from the in­ter­net and domestic me­dia.

Liu was sen­tenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “sub­ver­sion” af­ter co-writ­ing Char­ter 08, a pe­ti­tion call­ing for demo­cratic re­forms in the Com­mu­nist Party-ruled coun­try. The fol­low­ing year, he be­came the first Chi­nese per­son to be awarded the No­bel Peace Prize, but was not al­lowed to at­tend the cer­e­mony in Oslo. “I don’t know who (Liu Xia or Liu Xiaobo) is,” said a young woman who lived in the apart­ment com­plex. “Many gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees live in this com­pound. The guards are here for their safety,” she said. An el­derly man col­lect­ing trash on the board­walk said he be­lieved it was the build­ing’s prox­im­ity to Bei­jing’s main thor­ough­fare that brought in­creased se­cu­rity. “And I think (Chi­nese Pres­i­dent) Xi Jin­ping was here?” — AFP

—AFP

BEI­JING: The apart­ment build­ing where Liu Xia, the wife of late No­bel lau­re­ate Liu Xiaobo, lives is seen in Bei­jing.

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