AFP-Jiji SHENYANG, China (AFP-Jiji) — China faced international calls Friday to free the widow of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo after global condemnation over the Communist regime’s refusal to grant the democracy champion’s dying wish to leave the country.
The United States and the European Union urged President Xi Jinping’s government to let Liu’s widow, the poet Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010, leave the country.
Chinese doctors said she was by her husband’s side when he lost his battle with liver cancer on Thursday at age 61, more than a month after he was transferred from prison to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang.
Liu’s main doctor said he was able to say goodbye to his 56-year-old wife and in his final moments told her to “live well.”
But authorities have restricted her contact with the outside world and her whereabouts were unknown following the death of her husband, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests whose advocacy for democratic reform infuriated the government.
“I call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to depart China, according to her wishes,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
The EU urged Beijing to let Liu Xia and her family bury the dead democracy campaigner “at a place and in a manner of their choosing, and to allow them to grieve in peace.”
Jared Genser, a U.S. lawyer who represented Liu, said all contact with Liu Xia had been cut off in the past 48 hours.
“I am deeply worried about what’s happening with her right now,” Genser told CNN, adding that it would be hard for the government to still justify holding her without charges.
“The world really needs to rally and mobilize to make sure she can go wherever she wants and that she can bury her husband wherever she wants,” he said.