Friday, 7 December 2012

Nobel Dichotomy

Mo Yan refuses to be drawn into commenting further about Liu Xiaobo
On the eve of the awards ceremony for the Nobel prizes, Mo Yan, China's first Nobel winner in literature was defensive about not wanting to comment about Liu Xiaobo.

"I have already issued my opinion about this matter," Mo said in a news conference in Stockholm. "I have said this prize is for literature, not politics."

Back in October when Mo's name was announced, he had said that he hoped Liu Xiaobo would be released soon.

But now he was terse and combative.

"I am sure you know what I said that day [in October]. Why do you want me to repeat that? Time is precious," he said.

It seems Mo must have received instructions not to comment on Liu at all unless he too wanted to suffer reprisals. Already dissidents and other writers have said Mo is unworthy of the prize because he has shied away from campaigning for Liu's release.

Meanwhile AP reporters managed to avoid detection and knocked on Liu's wife's apartment door in Beijing.

The toll of being under house arrest for the past two years has physically and emotionally drained her as evidenced by her trembling uncontrollably and crying.

Liu's wife suffers physical and emotional strain in house arrest
She said her situation of being confined in her flat without the internet and and outside phone line was painfully surreal and in stark contrast to the national celebration of Mo's win.

"We live in such an absurd place," she said. "It is so absurd. I felt I was a person emotionally prepared to respond to the consequences of Liu Xiaobo winning the prize. But... I really never imagined that after he won, I would not be able to leave my home. This is too absurd. I think Kafka could not have written anything more absurd and unbelievable than this."

Once a month she is taken to see her husband in prison, but it will be unclear whether this will be stopped after this unprecedented interview.

She was denied visits for more than a year when she saw him two days after the Nobel Peace prize win and said he had dedicated the award to those who had died in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Liu has already four years in prison for an 11-year sentence for subversion for writing and disseminating Charter 08, a manifesto calling for multiparty elections and greater democracy in China.

The Nobel committee awarded him the prize for his two decades of non-violent struggle for civil rights.

Liu Xia is paying a heavy price for her husband's actions. She is only allowed out once a week to buy groceries and visit her parents. She says Liu knows about her detention. "He understands more or less. I told him: 'I am going through what you are going through almost'."

When she met the reporters at the door, she put her hands to her head and asked several times, "How did you manage to come up? How did you manage?"

Apparently around lunchtime, the guards who watch over Liu 24-hours a day at the main entrance of her building, had left their post.

According to the reporters, Liu Xia is in bad physical shape, appearing frail and explained she had a back injury that often keeps her confined to her bed.

Liu has served four of his 11-year sentence for subversion
Others have not forgotten Liu Xiaobo. One hundred and thirty-four Nobel laureates and Chinese activists have signed two separate letters to incoming President Xi Jinping asking him to release Liu.

The Nobel laureates included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and US writer Toni Morrison, while the Chinese activists included outspoken legal scholar He Weifang, human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and AIDS activist Hu Jia.

The world will not forget Liu Xiaobo, no matter how hard the Chinese government tries to make him and his wife disappear from headlines.

We are trying to be optimistic about Xi and his determination to make reforms -- perhaps releasing Liu is one item on his to-do list.

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