There has been controversy over the funeral of the late Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, whose ashes were scattered in the sea after a ceremony seemingly orchestrated by the Communist Party.
Supporters were also angry about the treatment of his wife Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and friends continue to hope the government will bow to international pressure to allow her to leave China.
Mr Liu died of liver cancer aged 61 last Thursday while in Chinese custody. He had been serving an 11-year sentence for state subversion after publishing the Charter 08 petition seeking democratic reform in China.
A video released online by the government over the weekend showed a grief-stricken Ms Liu at a ceremony that seemed to be mostly attended by state security officials. A subsequent video showed her lowering a white round urn and throwing flowers into the water off the northeastern coastal city of Dalian.
“Liu Xia still cut off from outside world – forced to cremate LXB [Liu Xiaobo] and scatter his ashes at sea so there would be no gravesite to visit,” Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represented Mr Liu, said in a tweet.
A government official in Shenyang, where Mr Liu had been jailed, told a news conference: “According to my understanding, Liu Xia is currently free,” adding that as a Chinese citizen, her rights would be protected under the law.
Speaking at the news conference, Mr Liu’s older brother, Liu Xiaoguang, thanked the ruling Communist Party for its “humanistic care” and said the government had followed the family’s wishes. He was then escorted out and no questions were allowed, prompting the dissident writer, Liao Yiwu, to tweet angrily about how the family was being muzzled.
“This gang of hooligans have already flung Liu Xiaobo’s ashes into the sea! Reuters reported that Liu Xia did not appear [at the news conference], only Liu Xiaobo’s older brother Liu Xiaoguang, who thanked the Communist Party and government under duress. All you people, don’t you see what’s going on. The lies and the horror make your blood run cold,” he said.
“Just yesterday, the family sent a message saying “they’re forcing us to declare our loyalty,” and today, Liu Xiaoguang? Liu Xia had to surrender,” said Mr Liao.
Chinese state media continued to reject foreign criticism of Beijing’s treatment of Mr Liu. In an editorial, the Global Times English-language edition described Mr Liu as “paranoid, naive and arrogant”.
“He had been divorced from the main theme of the Chinese society and therefore became a man of the past, a political agitator and opponent,” it said in a hostile editorial, rejecting comparisons between Mr Liu and freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela.
“No matter what was the motive behind Liu’s behaviour, he was actually a disruptive player to China’s development theme during the country’s reform and opening-up and a destructive element in China’s rise,” the Global Times said.
Hu Jia, the Beijing-based activist who has also been regularly jailed for his views, told AFP that his friend Ms Liu looked like “the world’s saddest person”.
“We are very worried. We saw from authorities’ photos of the funeral that she is weak and pained,” Mr Hu said.
In Hong Kong several thousand people gathered for a vigil for Mr Liu, calling him a “people’s hero” and demanding “true freedom” for his wife.
By Clifford Coonan