BEIJING — Three prominent human rights groups called on China on Friday to release the imprisoned dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize a year ago, and to end the house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia.
Mr. Liu has rarely been allowed to talk to family members since the Nobel committee made its announcement on Oct. 8, 2010, and he has been allowed to leave the prison where he is being held in Liaoning Province only once, according to the groups, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and China Human Rights Defenders. Ms. Liu has been kept under detention in the couple’s home in Beijing but has not been charged with any crime.
“The only thing that would force the government to reassess the decision is if there was some strong international pressure on China in this case, but the pressure is not there,” Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a telephone interview. “There’s no incentive for the government to revisit this decision. We’re talking about a climate where standing defiantly against the West is reaping more political awards than collaborating.”
Mr. Liu, a longtime human rights advocate and writer, was detained on Dec. 8, 2008, for playing a leading role in drafting Charter 08, which demands gradual political and legal reforms based on constitutional principles. The document was circulated via e-mail and was signed by thousands of Chinese, though Mr. Liu remained largely unknown within the country, in part because of government censorship. On Dec. 29, 2009, a court in Beijing sentenced Mr. Liu to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of the state.
Security agents outside the Lius’ Beijing apartment building prevented reporters from seeing Ms. Liu when the Nobel committee announced its decision. She was also barred from going to Oslo to collect the prize in December, and it was placed on an empty chair instead. It was the first time since 1936, when the Nazi government in Germany prevented the writer Carl von Ossietzky from collecting the prize, that no winner or representative had shown up for the ceremony. The Nobel committee announced on Friday that it was giving this year’s Peace Prize to two women from Liberia and one from Yemen for their promotion of democracy and gender equality.
A statement released by Amnesty International on Friday said that Ms. Liu had been almost entirely prevented from contacting anyone outside her apartment since February. She had a brief online chat at the time with a friend during which Ms. Liu “said that she was feeling miserable, was unable to go out and that her whole family was being held hostage,” Amnesty International said.
Ms. Liu’s mother lives in the same compound; she is the only person permitted to see Ms. Liu, and only on occasion. According to unofficial reports, Ms. Liu has been able to meet with Mr. Liu twice since January, Amnesty International said.
Mr. Liu’s Nobel Peace Prize has done little to blunt the Chinese government’s harsh measures against dissenters. The country’s leaders, anxious about Internet calls this year for protests modeled after the revolutions in the Middle East, have carried out a broad crackdown on liberal intellectuals.
One of Mr. Liu’s brothers, Liu Xiaoxuan, told Agence France-Presse this week that he had visited Mr. Liu in prison on Sept. 28 and that he “was looking very well.” Liu Xiaobo was allowed to travel to Dalian on Sept. 19 to attend a memorial service for his father, the brother said.
Human rights advocates said the Chinese government had allowed Mr. Liu’s brother to leak news of his recent visit to the prison in order to demonstrate leniency on the eve of the anniversary of Mr. Liu’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize. But fundamentally, the advocates said, nothing has changed regarding Mr. Liu or his wife.
In its winter 2010 issue, Asia Literary Review published a poem called “You Wait for Me With Dust” that Mr. Liu had written for his wife. The final lines were:
Just let the dust bury you altogether
Just let yourself fall asleep in the dust
Until I return
And you come awake
Wiping the dust from your skin and your soul
What a miracle — back from the dead.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 8, 2011, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: 3 Human Rights Groups Call for Release of Imprisoned Chinese Nobel Laureate.
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