The body of China’s late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was cremated on Saturday after a private ceremony attended by his wife and friends, two days after the dissident lost a battle with cancer while in custody.

Liu’s body was cremated “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.

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A supporter holds up a photo of Liu at a vigil in Hong Kong Thursday night. File Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

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

China’s government has come under international criticism over its treatment of the democracy advocate and his wife, who has been under house arrest since 2010, with calls for Beijing to release her and let her travel abroad.

“As far as I know, Liu Xia is in a free condition,” Zhang said, though it was unclear whether she was released.

At the 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”.

Authorities have severely restricted Liu Xia’s contact with the outside world.

“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.”

China had ignored international pleas to let Liu Xiaobo get treatment abroad before he died of multiple organ failure 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.

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Posters in front of the China Liaison Office on Tuesday. File photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

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

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

Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represented Liu Xiaobo, said Liu Xia has been held “incommunicado” since his death. She has never been charged with any crime, he said.

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

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.

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