China cracks down on supporters of Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo

Since Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize three weeks ago, dozens of his supporters have disappeared, been subjected to police surveillance, or been put under house arrest.

David Gray/Reuters
A man rides a tricycle past a security guard standing at the entrance of the residential compound where Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, lives in Beijing, on Oct. 19.

Dozens of supporters of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo have been disappeared, put under house arrest, or subjected to close police surveillance since Mr. Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize three weeks ago, human rights activists here and abroad say.

“The government does not know how to handle Liu Xiaobo’s award,” says Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer being subjected to a 24-hour police escort since he was released from the small hotel where he was kept incommunicado earlier this month. “Government control over society has been tightened up.”

The authorities have responded publicly to Liu’s prize with a slew of articles in the official media attacking the Norwegian committee that picked Liu and a harshly negative profile of the political essayist and literary critic that was published this week by Xinhua, the state news agency.

“Liu has been badmouthing his own country and his own nation for payment from the West such as ‘human rights prize,’ ” the Xinhua article charged. “He has spared no effort in working for Western anti-China forces.”

Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for “incitement to subversion of state power,” a charge based largely on his coauthorship of Charter 08, a public call for democratic freedoms and an end to one-party rule in China.

Nearly 40 people under house arrest, some held incommunicado

Since Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize three weeks ago, nearly 40 legal scholars, dissidents, underground church organizers, signatories to Charter 08, and others have been put under house arrest according to a list published on Twitter by Zhang Hui, a rights activist who himself is not allowed out of his house.

Most notably Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife, has been detained incommunicado at home since Oct. 11, though she did manage to get a message to a friend asking more than 100 Chinese rights activists and others to go to Oslo to collect the prize on her husband’s behalf on Dec. 10. She said she thought it unlikely the government would allow her to go.

Other prominent critics of the government have not been heard from for some time. Friends of Ding Zilin, spokeswoman for the Tiananmen Mothers, have told the New York-based group Human Rights in China that they have been unable to reach her or her husband by phone or e-mail since Liu’s prize was announced.

Warned not to talk to journalists

Many of Liu’s supporters say they have been warned by the police or by their employers not to talk to journalists about the Nobel prize. Some, such as Mr. Pu legal scholar Teng Biao, say they have been physically prevented by policemen from meeting foreign reporters.

“This illustrates the government’s focus on social stability,” says Li Fangping, a lawyer who was told Wednesday that until further notice he can leave his home only in a police car.

“They believe that during certain periods they have to threaten people on their ‘social stability’ list or put them under house arrest,” Mr. Li explains. “Since they cannot solve the problem legally, they use illegal measures.”

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