UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief said Thursday he intends to keep pressuring China to allow the wife of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo to move freely and leave the country if she wants to go elsewhere.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told a group of reporters Thursday that he intends to meet with Chinese officials when he returns to Geneva to stress the appeal he made after Liu died of liver cancer on July 27 for the lifting of restrictions on Liu Xia's movements.
"We're now focused on his wife and ensuring that she has — or trying to ensure that she has — freedom of movement and if she wants to leave China she should be able to leave China," the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said.
The United States, the European Union, and numerous other foreign governments and rights groups have also urged China to lift all restrictions on Liu Xia's movements.
An accomplished poet and artist, Liu Xia was never charged but has been kept guarded and largely isolated for more than seven years in the apartment she once shared with her husband.
She was with Liu when he died while serving an 11-year sentence on charges of incitement to subvert government power after he published a manifesto calling for political reform. But her current whereabouts are unknown and her Beijing apartment remains tightly guarded.
Zeid said "the claim was there was never any real restriction, but the feeling was that she was being restricted, and so we want to use this moment to assure ourselves that she is able to leave if she wants to."
China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement responding to Liu's death and calls for Liu Xia to move freely that foreign countries "are in no position to make improper remarks" over the handling of Liu's case, which Beijing sees as a domestic affair.
Zeid responded to China's claim that it's a domestic issue and the U.N. and foreign countries are interfering saying the U.N. General Assembly made very clear during the apartheid era in South Africa that criticism does not amount to intervening in another country's affairs.
"So I've invited the Chinese, I've invited all of them to claim it, to present a legal argument in defense of that position," the human rights chief said. "We hold up a mirror basically — you're committing the abuse, not us."