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Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Dissident and Nobel Laureate, Is Cremated

Mr. Liu’s small, muted funeral in the early morning hours in Shenyang, a city 390 miles northeast of Beijing, took place three days after he died of liver cancer at the age of 61. The funeral respected local customs and his family’s wishes, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported.


A rosary hangs over a portrait of Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong on Saturday. Credit Vincent Yu/Associated Press

The ceremony, however, like Mr. Liu’s final days in a hospital, was a paradoxical display of the efforts by the Chinese government to defend its treatment of him and his wife, even as it had kept them and their family members under tight guard. The family members were mostly unable to say whether they accepted the government’s account of their treatment.

An exception was Liu Xiaoguang, Mr. Liu’s eldest brother, whom officials escorted to an afternoon news conference in Shenyang, where he expressed thanks for the Communist Party’s handling of Mr. Liu’s treatment and funeral, and said that he supported the idea of dropping the ashes into the sea.

“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the party and government for completely following the family’s wishes,” said Mr. Liu, a former manager in a garment trading company. He repeated that view two more times during the news conference. Liu Xiaobo’s medical treatment, he said, “showed the superiority of our country’s socialist system.”

Mr. Liu’s widow, he added, was too fragile with grief to speak to the news media.

Many friends and supporters of the dissident were revolted and incensed by Mr. Liu’s cremation and sea burial under such intimidating controls.

“Inhuman, insult, shameful, disgusting,” Ai Weiwei, the outspoken Chinese artist, who lives in Germany, said on Twitter.


Liu Xia, left, and her bother, second from left, preparing for Liu Xaiobo’s sea burial off the coast of Dalian, China, on Saturday. Credit Shenyang Municipal Information Office, via European Pressphoto Agency

The mourners at the funeral included a brother of Ms. Liu and two of Mr. Liu’s brothers, as well as their wives. But the identity of the friends of Mr. Liu’s who the government said had also attended the funeral was unclear. Government-issued photographs did not appear to show any close friends of the couple among the 10 or so people at the funeral who were not family members.

Ms. Liu has been under house arrest since 2010, when her imprisoned husband won the Nobel Peace Prize. A spokesman for the Shenyang city government, Zhang Qingyang, said at a morning news conference on Saturday that Ms. Liu was free, yet also suggested that she was under protection for her own good.

“Liu Xia is free now,” Mr. Zhang said, according to Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper. “But since Liu Xiaobo passed away, she is grief-stricken and doesn’t need to be disturbed. This is the family hope and is also basic human nature.”

But Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu had never given any reason to think that they would welcome police surveillance and would willingly cut themselves off from friends and well-wishers, even journalists. Many of those friends, as well as Western governments and human rights organizations, have said that the couple appeared to have little say over Mr. Liu’s final days and funeral, and added that they feared Ms. Liu would remain under house arrest and smothering surveillance.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Peace Prize, was rebuffed on Friday when she tried to apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy in Oslo to attend Mr. Liu’s funeral, she said in an email. The embassy said it would not accept a visa application for the funeral unless Ms. Reiss-Andersen had an invitation from Ms. Liu or another member of Mr. Liu’s family, she said.


Liu Xia, right, helping to scatter her husband’s ashes off the coast of Dalian, China, on Saturday. Credit Shenyang Municipal Information Office, via European Pressphoto Agency

“So far, no one has succeeded in reaching the widow Liu Xia,” Ms. Reiss-Andersen said. “Everything points to the authorities keeping her isolated from the outside world.”

Mr. Liu died just over two weeks after the government revealed that his illness had reached a terminal state, and that he had been given medical parole.

Mr. Liu was convicted of inciting subversion and imprisoned for 11 years in 2009, a year after he was arrested as he prepared to unveil a petition for democratic change called Charter 08. In 2010, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, infuriating Chinese Communist Party leaders, and mentions of his name in the official news media have been rare and invariably hostile.

Since revealing Mr. Liu’s fatal illness, the Chinese government has gone out of its way to tell the outside world that he was treated humanely. The handling of his cremation extended that publicity drive, and officials showed reporters in Shenyang a slide show of the funeral, even as they stressed their respect for the family’s privacy.

The images included one of Ms. Liu wearing dark glasses and holding a picture of her late husband fringed with black trimming. To her left, Mr. Liu’s younger brother, Liu Xiaoxuan, clutched a container that held Mr. Liu’s ashes.

Later, the government released pictures of Mr. Liu’s family aboard a boat used to drop his ashes into the sea. The family scattered white and yellow chrysanthemum petals into a pale bowl holding the ashes, and it was gently lowered into the water.

Such sea ceremonies are not common in China, though Mr. Zhang, the city spokesman, said it was a “local custom.” Mr. Liu, the elder brother, said it had been his idea. But Liu Xiaobo was born in Changchun, a city about 290 miles from the Chinese coast, and Shenyang, the city where he died, is about 100 miles from the coast.

Source: NYT > World

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