China activists defy guards to visit rebel wife

Beijing, Dec. 31 (AP): Five Chinese activists defied security and made a brief visit to dissident Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia, who has been confined under house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago.

The rare visit on Friday was captured on video by Beijing activist Hu Jia, who posted it on YouTube today. Hu said the activists wanted to see Liu Xia on that day to mark her husband's birthday. "Since it was Liu Xiaobo's birthday, we thought we would visit his wife and commemorate it with her since he can't be with her," Hu said.

Liu was stunned by the visit, trembling uncontrollably and crying as she described how absurd and emotionally draining it had been to be kept locked in her home.

Liu Xiaobo is four years into an 11-year prison term for subversion for authoring and disseminating a programmatic call for democracy, Charter '08. In awarding him the peace prize, the Nobel committee cited that proposal and his two decades of nonviolent struggle for civil rights.

Liu Xia has been held in her duplex apartment with no Internet or outside phone line and is allowed only weekly trips to buy groceries and visit her parents.

In the four-minute video of the activists' visit on Friday, the activists are seen arguing with a man guarding the staircase leading to the couple's apartment in Beijing.

They pushed past the guard and followed Liu Xia up the stairs to her apartment. There, Liu tearfully embraced her friend, Xu Youyu, a Beijing intellectual.

She whispered urgently in his ear, the anxiety etched on her face. She was apparently mindful of the authorities' close surveillance of her home, which has been bugged, Hu said.

"Liu Xia was expressing to him her terror. She said the authorities were putting a lot of pressure on her and her family, and that they would have to bear the consequences for incidents like this," Hu said. Xu could not be reached on his cell phone.

The authoritarian government's detention of the Liu couple, one in a prison 450km northeast of Beijing and the other in a fifth-floor apartment in the capital, underscores its determination to keep the 57-year-old peace laureate from becoming an inspiration to other Chinese, either by himself or through her.

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