Friends of the widow of the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo have said that they have been in touch with her, and that she is back in Beijing.

The Chinese government faced an international backlash for its treatment of dissident writer Liu Xiaobo when he died of liver cancer in a hospital under police custody last month. His widow, poet Liu Xia, has been held incommunicado by government authorities since the day of her husband’s funeral, according to her US-based lawyer. Beijing remains under pressure to free her and let her travel abroad.

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Liu Xia appears in a video posted on Youtube. File photo: Screenshot.

Liu resurfaced in an online video about two weeks ago, in which she said that she was recovering in a province outside of the capital.

Ye Du, a friend of Liu’s, said he spoke to her on Saturday night through “indirect means” for a few minutes.

He told RTHK that they could not hear each other very clearly, but said Liu told him that she is back in Beijing and “is fighting to live there long term.”

According to the broadcaster, Ye Du said he suspected that Liu remained under surveillance by authorities, and that she was not allowed to contact her friends or see them. He said she may be taken away from Beijing again during the 19th party congress on October 18 – China’s most important political meeting, held once every five years.

He added that she was not in a good mood, and did not speak much. Their call was terminated abruptly.

Teary phone call

Frank Lu Siqing, founder of Hong Kong-based NGO the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, wrote on the centre’s website on Saturday that he spoke to Liu Xia for half an hour in the afternoon after he called the number of her Beijing home. He wrote that they were both crying on the phone, and he avoided asking her too many questions about her late husband in order to avoid upset.

He said they discussed topics related to her well-being, and he tried to convince her to take less anti-depression medication, exercise more, and stop smoking.

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The Hong Kong Alliance held a memorial for Liu Xiaobo in Sai Kung on Sunday.

Liu told Lu that she was taking anti-depression medication everyday, and that she was so depressed that she could not stop.

She also told Lu that she did not receive the empty box that contained her husband’s ashes after his sea burial.

He posted on the website again on Sunday, saying that one of Liu’s family members told him that he was able to reach Liu Xia because she happened to be alone at home when he called on Saturday. Lu cited the family member as saying that some “important people” in Beijing were nervous after the call.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China held a memorial for Liu Xiaobo on a beach in Sai Kung on Sunday. Members of the Alliance and about a dozen citizens wrote “Free Liu Xia” on the beach using stones, and cast a chair – symbolising Liu Xiaobo – adrift in the ocean on a raft made of Styrofoam.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.