May 3, 2018 / 4:33 AM / 18 days ago

Widow of dissident Liu Xiaobo is losing hope of leaving China, friend says

BEIJING (Reuters) - Liu Xia, the widow of China’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident, Liu Xiaobo, is losing hope of leaving the country and says she may die there, a friend who recently spoke to her by telephone has said.

FILE PHOTO: Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, looks out of a car window after a trial outside a court in the Huairou district of Beijing, China June 9, 2013. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic/File Photo

Liu Xia, a poet and artist who suffers from depression, has effectively been under house arrest since her husband won the prize in 2010. Liu Xiaobo died in Chinese custody in July last year, after being denied permission to go abroad for treatment of advanced liver cancer.

Delayed talks between China and Western governments about the possibility of Liu Xia moving abroad have sparked fears in recent weeks that Beijing will not let her, a Western diplomat involved in the case told Reuters.

“Now I’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home,” Liu Xia said on Monday in a telephone call with Liao Yiwu, a Chinese writer living in Germany.

Their conversation was quoted by Liao on Wednesday in an essay on chinachange.org, a blog that regularly publishes content from Chinese dissidents and activists.

“Using death to defy could not be any simpler for me,” Liu Xia said, according to the post.

Liao said he and other friends of Liu Xia had been making preparations for her to come to Germany and receive treatment.

Liao also released a recording of a previous telephone conversation from April 8, when he encouraged a weeping Liu Xia to keep up hope and continue applying to leave China.

Reuters was unable to reach Liu Xia for comment. China’s justice department did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on Liao’s essay.

Asked about the case, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no understanding of the situation but Liu Xia was a Chinese citizen and relevant authorities would “handle the issue in accordance with the law”. She did not elaborate.

China has previously said Liu Xia, as a private citizen, was free to do as she pleased and the details of the case remained an internal affair.

In the past, Chinese dissidents have been allowed to leave the country and take up residence in a willing Western nation.

However, since coming to power in 2013, President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping campaign to quash dissent throughout Chinese society, detaining hundreds of rights activists and lawyers, with dozens jailed.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez

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