Nobel Laureate's Wife Under House Arrest

A human rights group says the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was placed under house arrest after returning from visiting her husband in prison. Liu won the peace prize on Friday.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

The wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo says her husband wept over the weekend, when officials in jail told him that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. She was permitted to spend an hour with her husband, yesterday, before being returned to her apartment in Beijing and placed under house arrest.

NPR's Rob Gifford is in Shanghai to tell us more.

Rob, tell us about the meeting over the weekend.

ROB GIFFORD: Well, yes, Liu Xiaobo's wife, Liu Xia, was allowed to travel up to Jinzhou, the town 300 miles from Beijing where Liu Xiaobo is being held for his 11 year sentence. He was just sentenced last year for subversion. We know that she met with him yesterday, on Sunday, and had a meeting. And that he told her that he was dedicating the award to the people who died in Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989.

Liu Xiaobo was a very prominent member of those protestors and he was one of the guiding people. He was a junior professor at the time. And he apparently wept when he met with his wife, and was very emotional, as you can imagine.

What then happened is Liu Xia returned after the meeting to Beijing, as you said. She's under house arrest now. We've been trying to contact her by phone. We've actually managed to get through to her on the Internet though. And here's a bizarre thing about modern China: She's actually been posting on Twitter and she has written about her meeting with Liu Xiaobo on Twitter. And that gives you an idea of some of the contradictions here in China.

But she's got people outside her apartment, police - many police - and she's not allowed to make phone calls at all.

WERTHEIMER: So the details that he wept, that he's dedicating it to the Tiananmen Square deaths, that all comes from tweets?

GIFFORD: A lot of it does. Some of it - she was able to have brief telephone calls with some people, but her phones have now been cut. And really this does sum up, if you like, the contradictions of modern China, that the man who has pushed the political reform within China for 20 years is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He's in jail for subversion. But his wife is able to tweet about this. She has to do it through a VPN. Twitter is actually blocked here in China, even though there are other micro-blogging sites. But that gives an idea of where China is.

China is undergoing a social and economic revolution. It's being transformed, convulsed by change. The one area where it will not change, says the Communist Party, is in the political sphere. So the deep, deep contradictions between the social and media and economic transformation, and the absolute intransigence on anything political is really captured by this whole scenario over the weekend -of him still in jail and her tweeting about it to the world.

WERTHEIMER: What impact has this had on other dissidents and activists in China?

GIFFORD: Well, interesting to see a few activists in Hong Kong where there are still many more social and political freedoms than in the mainland. They were toasting Liu Xiaobo with champagne and Norwegian salmon, I think in honor of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Here in China, though, the interesting thing, really, in response to that question, Linda, is that there really aren't many dissidents anymore. This is in some ways is why Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Prize, because after Tiananmen Square many of them fled, many of them have just given up and gone into business. And Liu Xiaobo was really one of the few who stayed in China and kept on pushing.

He's been in jail several times before this sentencing. And, really, he's one of the few persistent ones. Some of the others who are left have obviously been celebrating. But I dont think that they're feeling that this is going to lead to any political change in China.

Indeed, the media here have been very, very blunt in condemning it, saying this just shows a prejudiced West afraid of China's rising wealth and power, to quote one Chinese newspaper.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Rob.

GIFFORD: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: That's NPR's Rob Gifford reporting from Shanghai.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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