Chi­nese No­bel lau­re­ate’s ashes scat­tered into sea

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - GIL­LIAN WONG AND NG HAN GUAN In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by John­son Lai of The Associated Press.

SHENYANG, China — Fam­ily mem­bers of Liu Xiaobo scat­tered the No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate’s ashes into the sea on Satur­day in fu­neral pro­ceed­ings closely or­ches­trated by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

Liu’s sup­port­ers said the move was in­tended by the au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment to per­ma­nently erase any traces of China’s best-known po­lit­i­cal pris­oner, who died of can­cer Thurs­day at the age of 61.

The sea burial took place at noon Satur­day, just hours af­ter his cre­ma­tion, a spokesman for the north­east­ern city of Shenyang, where Liu died, told re­porters.

Liu’s el­der brother, also ad­dress­ing re­porters at the brief­ing, thanked the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party and the gov­ern­ment for its han­dling of his brother’s fu­neral. The brother, Liu Xiaoguang, is re­garded by Liu Xiaobo’s friends as hav­ing long been un­sup­port­ive of Liu’s po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy.

Liu died of mul­ti­ple or­gan fail­ure af­ter a bat­tle with liver can­cer while serv­ing an 11-year sen­tence for in­cite­ment to sub­vert state power. Be­fore Liu’s death, Bei­jing faced mount­ing in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism for not let­ting him and his wife travel for treat­ment abroad as he had wished.

The gov­ern­ment held two brief­ings Satur­day and pro­vided photos of the fu­neral and the sea burial, the lat­est moves in a pro­pa­ganda cam­paign seem­ingly aimed at coun­ter­ing crit­i­cism that Bei­jing has failed to han­dle Liu’s de­te­ri­o­ra­tion and dying wishes in a hu­man­i­tar­ian way. A video about Liu’s hos­pi­tal treat­ment, re­leased Fri­day on the web­site of Shenyang’s ju­di­cial bureau, ap­peared aimed at the same ob­jec­tive.

Ac­tivists and friends of the fam­ily said the sea burial ap­peared to be Bei­jing’s way of re­mov­ing all phys­i­cal traces of Liu. It also re­moves the need for a land-based grave at which his sup­port­ers would have been able to pay their re­spects.

“The gov­ern­ment’s think­ing is that in this way, they can de­stroy the body and re­move all traces of him,” dis­si­dent and fam­ily friend Hu Jia said.

“Af­ter all, he’s a No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate and he died af­ter be­ing sup­pressed by the au­thor­i­ties,” Hu said. “The au­thor­i­ties are very wor­ried that a grave would be the fo­cal point of the pub­lic’s ac­tions to memo­ri­al­ize him, which could eas­ily turn into protests.”

Ac­tivist film­maker and friend Zeng Jinyan said the sea burial would not de­ter sup­port­ers from com­mem­o­rat­ing Liu’s life.

“Now, Liu Xiaobo is ev­ery­where,” Zeng said. “Twothirds of the earth’s sur­face is cov­ered by the sea, and I can fore­see that in the fu­ture, ac­tivists and or­di­nary peo­ple will go to the sea and memo­ri­al­ize Liu Xiaobo.”

In Hong Kong, thou­sands of ac­tivists at­tended a can­dle­light vigil Satur­day to mourn Liu’s death.

Liu’s sup­port­ers paid their re­spects by ob­serv­ing a minute of si­lence and march­ing through the streets of Hong Kong hold­ing lit can­dles.

Liu’s wife and other fam­ily mem­bers have been closely guarded by au­thor­i­ties and re­main largely out of con­tact with the out­side world even af­ter his death. Gov­ern­ments around the world have urged China to free Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, from the strict house ar­rest she has lived un­der for years de­spite not be­ing con­victed of any crime.

The gov­ern­ment hand­out photos showed Liu Xia, who wore dark sun­glasses, be­ing com­forted by her brother in a fu­neral par­lor as they stood in a row with Liu Xiaobo’s older and younger sib­lings and their wives. Liu’s body lay in an open cas­ket in the cen­ter of the room, sur­rounded by an ar­range­ment of pot­ted white flow­ers.

The gov­ern­ment also said some of Liu’s friends at­tended the cer­e­mony, a claim that was dis­puted by peo­ple who have long been close to Liu. In the hand­out images, none among a group of peo­ple stand­ing by the cas­ket were iden­ti­fi­able as any of Liu’s friends, Zeng said.

Zeng said she was among the Liu fam­ily’s friends who had trav­eled to Shenyang only to be pre­vented by the au­thor­i­ties from see­ing Liu in his fi­nal mo­ments.

“I just want to be closer to him and to see him, touch him even, if it’s pos­si­ble, and to give Liu Xia a hug, that’s all,” she said.

At the brief­ing in Shenyang, a spokesman for the city’s in­for­ma­tion of­fice said au­thor­i­ties were look­ing out for Liu Xia’s in­ter­ests and in­sisted that she is free.

“As far as I know, Liu Xia has free­dom. But she just lost her rel­a­tive and is in deep sor­row,” spokesman Zhang Qingyang said. “Af­ter Liu Xiaobo’s death, let Liu Xia tend to his af­fairs and try to keep her away from ex­ter­nal in­ter­fer­ence.”

Liu Xiaobo was only the sec­ond No­bel Peace Prize win­ner to die in po­lice cus­tody, a fact pointed to by hu­man-rights groups as an in­di­ca­tion of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s in­creas­ingly hard line against its crit­ics. The first, Carl von Ossi­et­zky, died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis in Ger­many in 1938 while serv­ing a sen­tence for op­pos­ing Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Liu rose to promi­nence dur­ing the 1989 pro-democ­racy protests cen­tered in Bei­jing’s Tianan­men Square. He was sen­tenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-writ­ing “Char­ter 08,” a doc­u­ment that called for an end to one-party rule in China.

He was in prison when he was awarded the No­bel prize in 2010, which Bei­jing con­demned as an af­front to its po­lit­i­cal and le­gal sys­tems.

There is lit­tle men­tion of Liu in China’s heav­ily cen­sored state me­dia and so­cial net­work­ing plat­forms. One no­table ex­cep­tion is a news­pa­per pub­lished by the Com­mu­nist Party that said in an ed­i­to­rial that the West was “de­ify­ing” Liu, a man the pa­per de­scribed as a crim­i­nal who was “para­noid, naive and ar­ro­gant.”

“Liu’s memo­rial tablet can­not find a place in China’s cul­tural tem­ple,” the Global Times said in the ed­i­to­rial Satur­day. “Deifi­ca­tion of Liu by the West will be even­tu­ally over­shad­owed by China’s de­nial of him.”

AP

Liu Xia (left), the wi­dow of Chi­nese po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dent and No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate Liu Xiaobo, and her brother carry flow­ers Satur­day as they scat­ter the lau­re­ate’s ashes at sea off the north­east­ern China coast. The pro­ceed­ings were closely or­ches­trated by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

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