China cremates body of Nobel laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo

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AFP / SAM YEH This photo illustration shows a collection of Taiwanese newspapers in Taipei on July 14, 2017 reporting on the death of China's Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo

The body of China’s late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was cremated Saturday after a private ceremony attended by his family, as Beijing faces international pressure to let the dissident’s wife leave the country.

Liu’s remains were incinerated “in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs” in the northeastern city of Shenyang, said Zhang Qingyang, an official from the municipal office.

Officials released photos showing his wife, the poet Liu Xia, with her brother, Liu Xiaobo’s brother and friends in front of the body, which was covered with white petals and surrounded by flowers at a funeral home.

The body of China’s late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was cremated Saturday after a private ceremony attended by his family, as Beijing faces international pressure to let the dissident’s wife leave the country.

Liu’s remains were incinerated “in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs” in the northeastern city of Shenyang, said Zhang Qingyang, an official from the municipal office.

AFP / Gal ROMAProminent Chinese dissidents

Officials released photos showing his wife, the poet Liu Xia, with her brother, Liu Xiaobo’s brother and friends in front of the body, which was covered with white petals and surrounded by flowers at a funeral home.

China’s government faced a global backlash for denying the democracy advocate’s wish to be treated abroad. After his death, the United States and the European Union called on Beijing to free Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010 and let her leave the country.

“As far as I know, Liu Xia is in a free condition,” Zhang said, though it was unclear whether she was released as he did not provide more details about her situation.

Authorities have severely restricted Liu Xia’s contact with the outside world and Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represented the Nobel Peace Prize winner, said she has been held “incommunicado” since her husband’s death.

– Rescue her ‘fast’ –

Liu was jailed in 2008 after co-writing a petition calling for democratic reforms. The veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “subversion” a year later.

He died of multiple organ failures at a Shenyang hospital on Thursday at age 61, more than a month after he was transferred from prison due to late-stage liver cancer.

At his funeral, Mozart’s Requiem was played and Liu Xia “fixed her eyes on him a long time, mumbling to say farewell,” Zhang said, adding that she was “in very low spirits”.

AFP/File / Isaac LAWRENCE A man writes a message and holds a portrait outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong after the death of Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, in Hong Kong on July 13, 2017

“She has just lost her husband, so she is currently emotionally grieving,” Zhang said.

“It’s best for her not to receive too much outside interference during this period after Liu Xiaobo has died, during this period of dealing with the funeral. This is the family’s wish, as well as natural and normal.”

Zhang said authorities would release information about where Liu Xiaobo’s ashes will be taken “at an appropriate time”.

Genser said Liu Xia has been held for seven years even though she has never been charged with any crime.

“The world needs to mobilize to rescue her – and fast,” he said in a statement.

Hu Jia, a Beijing-based activist, said authorities should prove that Liu Xia was free.

LIU FAMILY/AFP/File / HandoutThis file handout photo released by the Liu’s family and taken on October 22, 2002, shows Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo (L) and his wife Liu Xia in Beijing

“They want to say she’s free? Then let her hold a press conference, let her freely answer questions, and let her tell us when she’s returning to Beijing, when we can be with her and comfort her,” Hu told AFP.

The foreign ministry lashed out at the international criticism on Friday, saying it lodged official protests with the United States, Germany, France, and the United Nations human rights office.

The foreign ministry said giving Liu the Nobel Peace Prize was “blasphemy” while state-run media has called him a “convicted criminal”.

“His influence has breached the fundamental moral principle of Chinese patriotism and posed a challenge to China’s stability and national security,” the nationalist Global Times tabloid said in an editorial. “This is why the Chinese society opposes and despises him.”