Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, had suffered oppression and imprisonment for years. While he was serving an 11-year prison sentence, she was under house arrest, though not convicted of any crime. The couple were denied their request to come to America for his last days, despite American and German doctors' statement that he was strong enough to travel. Now, in the wake of his death from cancer, there is fear Liu Xia, Liu's widow, is still watched and oppressed.
According to AP, more than 12 young guards stand by her apartment compound, blocking entrances and filming people who approach while plainclothes agents sit outside the main gate. There are no supporters near the compound, AP said. Friends who were able to keep even minimal contact are cut off from communicating with Liu Xia.
Tienchi Martin-Liao, president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, said, “Before we were able to at least see her weekly through video chat on a friend’s phone. Now she’s been completely cut off. What crimes has she committed to be surveilled, controlled and humiliated?” Liu Xia and her closest circle are not speaking, having "gone quiet." According to Martin-Liao, it is rumored that authorities forced her to go to the province of Yunnan on vacation, where friends live.
The government said that a small memorial service for Liu was attended by his wife and friends, but, according to Mo Zhixu, a friend and writer, the attendees in the released photographs look like security agents who monitor Liu Xia's life. He said, "not a single one of his real friends were there," and thinks the service was a performance put on by authorities.
Xiaobo's body was cremated, and his ashes released into the ocean. Cremation is traditionally a cruel practice in Chinese culture that denies the deceased a burial place. Liu’s supporters said that the act was meant to erase him and his political views from China, while preventing a memorial site.
But authorities have not been able to stop supporters worldwide from paying their respects to the famous activist. In response to an inhumane burial, people around the world have turned the sea into a memorial. In America, China, England, and Australia, social media accounts show pictures of an empty chair, sometimes placed by the sea. Unable to receive his prize, an empty chair had represented Liu during the the Nobel award ceremony in 2011.
China is censoring internet activity referencing Liu Xiaobo and showing sadness over his death. Authorities arrested activist Jiang Jianjun, after he posted a video of himself throwing a bottle with a message to Liu into the ocean at Tiger Beach, near where Liu's ashes were released.
Though Chinese officials claim Liu Xia is free, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said to Reuters, "We call upon Chinese authorities to lift all restrictions they have put upon her. If she wants to leave China, there is no justification for denying her the opportunity to do so."