Nobel prizewinner Liu Xiaobo is dead, his widow under house arrest. Now it’s illegal to sing songs about him, too.


We’ve written before about Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo (here and here and here, among other places), who died last July in police custody from late-stage liver cancer, which received very, very late treatment from the Chinese authorities. They had ignored the increasingly desperate pleas for his treatment. His widow is still under house arrest. But that’s not enough. Now they arresting people who sing songs about the writer, poet, and human rights activist. The latest from Radio Free Asia:

The memory lives on: Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia

A Chinese musician detained since last September for singing about late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo has been formally arrested, while his collaborator has been forced to leave the city, where he has a job and a family, a rights lawyer said on Tuesday.

Singer-songwriters Xu Lin and Liu Sifang were being held in Nansha and Jiangxi respectively after they wrote songs for Liu, who died in police custody of late-stage liver cancer in July.

Xu Lin was formally arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on Nov. 2 while fellow singer activist, Liu Sifang, was released on bail.

“Without regular contact with his family and a lawyer, Xu Lin is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” London-based rights group Amnesty International said in a recent statement.

Rights lawyer Sui Muqing visited Xu in the Nansha Detention Center in Guangdong’s provincial capital Guangzhou on Monday, he said. “Picking quarrels and stirring up trouble is a charge pinned on dissidents and rights activists for what they say,” he said.

“The charge of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble has become one of the main charges used to crack down on freedom of speech,” Sui said. “Most people who get detained for posting something online are charged with this offense.”

Sui said Xu had requested not to have a lawyer, following a pattern set by other detained activists who strike a deal to plead “guilty” in return for more lenient treatment.

Xu top, Liu bottom

But Sui said Xu didn’t want to use up resources needed by others.

“The main reason was that he didn’t want to take up resources available to other people, not that he was refusing to hire a lawyer,” he said.

“She isn’t allowed to have contact with anyone outside the family, nor can she give interviews to the foreign media,” she said.

“The family have been very worried ever since they received the notice of formal arrest.”

She said Xu Lin hasn’t committed any crime.

“This case is all about the policing of free speech, in the spirit of the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party’s 19th congress [last month],” she said.

Meanwhile, Liu Sifang, in spite of being released on bail on the same charge, has now been forced to leave Foshan, where he lives with his wife and works at a private school, Sui said.

Next they’ll make the signs illegal.

“He lives with his wife in Foshan, and they both work at a private educational establishment there,” Sui said. “He had barely been back at work a few days when the Foshan state security police starting telling him to leave town.”

“Not directly, of course, but they put pressure on him via his employer, who had no choice but to tell him to leave,” he said.

Liu Xiaobo died weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.

His wife Liu Xia, who has never been charged with any crime, remains under house arrest and continual police surveillance in spite of continued international calls for her unconditional release.

Police have since detained a number of activists who staged memorials in Liu’s honor, including Zhuo Yuzhen, detained in Guangdong’s riverside town of Jiangmen for taking part in a seashore memorial a month after Liu’s passing.

Zhuo Yuzhen, who hails from the southeastern province of Fujian, was formally arrested by police from his hometown and has been sent back to Guangdong to face investigation and prosecution.

Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036


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