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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Nobel Peace Prize winner's wife has 'disappeared,' lawyer says

October 13, 2010

By DAVID WIVELL
The Associated Press (AP)
October 9, 2010

JINZHOU, China -- The world's newest Nobel Peace
Prize winner remained unreachable in a Chinese
prison Saturday, while his wife's mobile phone
was cut off and the authoritarian government
continued to censor reports about democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo's honor.

Police kept reporters away from the prison where
Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for
subversion, and his lawyer said that Liu's wife
-- who had been hoping to visit him Saturday and
tell him the news of the award -- has
"disappeared" and he is worried she may be in police custody.

Chinese authorities, who called Liu a criminal
shortly after his award Friday and said his
winning "desecrates the prize," sank Saturday into official silence.

Only an editorial in the state-run Global Times
newspaper spoke out Saturday, saying in English,
"Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is
meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed.
On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself."

The paper's Chinese-language edition called the
award "an arrogant showcase of Western ideology"
and said it disrespected the Chinese people.

But one Chinese newspaper cartoonist, Kuang Biao,
posted an image on his blog Friday of a Nobel prize medal behind bars.

In naming Liu, the Norwegian-based Nobel
committee honored his more than two decades of
advocacy for human rights and peaceful democratic
change — from the Tiananmen Square demonstrations
in 1989 to a manifesto for political reform that
he co-authored in 2008 and which led to his latest jail term.

President Barack Obama, last year's peace prize
winner, called for Liu's immediate release.

'We are all worried'

But there was still no word from the winner
himself. The mobile phone of his wife, Liu Xia,
was turned off Saturday as she was expected to be
en route with police to the prison to meet her husband.

"She's disappeared. We're all worried about
them," Liu's lawyer, Shang Baojun, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

He said even Liu Xia's mother had been unable to reach her.

Liu's wife's freedom of movement had been
shrinking since the eve of the Nobel announcement
when, she said, police came to her apartment to
try to get her out of Beijing, offering her a prison visit with Liu.

She wanted to stay for the announcement and
planned to hold an impromptu news conference with
reporters. But police would not let her leave the
apartment and on Friday night, she said she was
negotiating terms to visit Liu on Saturday and tell him the news.

Police often force political critics, religious
dissenters and sometimes their family members to
leave Beijing ahead of sensitive anniversaries,
often putting them up in guesthouses and keeping
them out of the way for days and weeks.

Beth Schwanke with the Washington-based Freedom
Now, an organization that serves as Liu's
international counsel, said, "We're very
concerned that the government might use this as a pretext for detaining her."

Liu's wife has said she hopes to go to Norway to
collect the Nobel medal and its prize money of 10
million Swedish kronor (about $1.5 million), if he cannot.

Two years into an 11-year jail term at the prison
300 miles from Beijing, the slight, 54-year-old
literary critic was not expected to find out
about the award until the meeting with his wife.

Release unlikely

Shang said it was not likely that winning the
prize would have any big effect on Liu's prison sentence.

"Unless (President) Hu Jintao signs some sort of
special order ... but there's no precedent for that," the lawyer said.

In past years, China would release certain
dissidents after international pressure, but not because they won major awards.

Liu is the first peace prize winner chosen while
serving a criminal prison sentence, although
several laureates, including Myanmar democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) and German
pacifist Carl von Ossietzky (1935) were in custody without a legal trial.

Still others, like Soviet dissident Andrei
Sakharov (1975) and Polish Solidarity leader Lech
Walesa (1983), were prevented by their
governments from going to Norway to accept the prize.

The government arrested Liu in December 2008,
hours before he released a document named Charter
08 that called for greater freedoms and for the
Communist Party to give way to gradual, democratic change.

In announcing the peace prize Friday, the Nobel
committee issued a challenge to China to live up
to its responsibilities as the world's
second-largest economy and a burgeoning diplomatic and military power.

Liu had been virtually unknown among ordinary
Chinese. University students in Beijing were
wrestling Friday night with a mix of pride and suspicion over the award.

Students on the online bulletin board of China's
top university were asking angrily how someone in
prison could win the peace prize, said Peking University student Yang Yuan.

"But then I thought about it -- wasn't Mandela in
prison?" Yang said. "So I just don't know about this."

South Africa's Nelson Mandela was actually
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize three years after
his release from prison. He shared the prize with
then-South African leader F.W. de Klerk for their
efforts to bring racial reconciliation.
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