China defends treatment of Nobel dissident's widow

Beijing (AFP) –


China warned foreigners not to interfere on Monday after western diplomats were prevented from visiting the widow of dissident Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo at her home.

Liu Xia, 57, has been under de facto house arrest despite facing no charges ever since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. He died of liver cancer while still in custody last year.

Diplomats from the French, German, Canadian and European Union embassies tried to visit her at her Beijing apartment on Friday amid concerns about her psychological health.

But diplomatic sources said guards at the gate of her housing complex checked the identities of some of the would-be visitors before refusing them entry without explanation. Some of the other diplomats were turned away in front of her building.

"Liu Xia is a Chinese citizen. The relevant departments of the Chinese government of course protect her rights according to Chinese law," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

"As for certain foreigners, we hope they can fully respect China's sovereignty, especially its judicial sovereignty," Lu said.

"If as you say the people in question are China-based foreign diplomats, they should have an even better understanding of the laws and regulations of the country they live in."

Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died while serving an 11-year jail sentence for "subversion", making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the era of Nazi Germany.

Liu Xia faces daily restrictions on movement and surveillance, although Chinese authorities maintain she is free.

Earlier this month reports emerged that she had told friends she was ready to "die at home" in protest at her ongoing detention.

The German embassy offered in April to help her travel to Germany but the move did not take place, according to Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, who is close to Liu Xia.