China sees that Nobel laureate gets a muted farewell
Fearing protests, leaders bury Liu’s ashes in the sea
BEIJING — China cremated its only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, on Saturday, but watchful officials allowed only his widow and a few other mourners to bid farewell to the man who also was the country’s most famous political prisoner.
Liu’s ashes were lowered into the sea in a simple ceremony, ensuring there would be no grave on land to serve as a magnet for protests against the Communist Party.
“As Mozart’s Requiem played, Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, first came forward to stand before his body,” according to an of- ficial account of the funeral. “She gazed upon him for a long time and murmured her final farewells to her husband.”
Died of liver cancer
Liu’s small, muted funeral in Shenyang, a city 390 miles northeast of Beijing, took place three days after he died of liver cancer. He was 61. The funeral respected local customs and his family’s wishes, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported.
The ceremony, however, like Liu’s final days in a hospital, was a paradoxical display of the efforts by the Chinese government to defend its treatment of him and his wife, even as it had kept them and their family members under tight guard. The family members were mostly unable to say whether they accepted the government’s account of their treatment.
There was one exception.
“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the party and government for completely following the family’s wishes,” said Liu Xiaoguang, Liu Xiaobo’s eldest brother, whom officials escorted to a news conference. Liu’s widow, he added, was too fragile with grief to speak to the news media.
Given medical parole
Many friends and supporters of the dissident were revolted and incensed by Liu’s cremation and sea burial under such intimidating controls.
“Inhuman, insult, shameful, disgusting,” Ai Weiwei, the outspoken Chinese artist, who lives in Germany, said on Twitter. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since 2010. A Shenyang government spokesman, Zhang Qingyang, said Saturday that Liu Xia was free, but her supporters said they feared she would remain under house arrest and smothering surveillance.
Liu died just over two weeks after the government revealed that his illness had reached a terminal state and that he had been given medical parole.
Liu Xiaobo was convicted of inciting subversion and imprisoned for 11 years in 2009, a year after he was arrested as he prepared to unveil a petition for democratic change. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, infuriating Chinese Communist Party leaders.