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China Nobel Prize Tensions: Liu Xia Visits Liu Xiaobo, Placed Under House Arrest

GILLIAN WONG   10/11/10 12:57 AM ET   AP

China Nobel Prize
In this Sept. 28, 2010 photo, Liu Xia, wife of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, speaks during an interview in Beijing, China. When the police came for Liu Xiaobo that night nearly two years ago, they didn't tell the dissident-author the reason for taking him away. The line in the detention order for "motive" was blank. But everyone in Liu's dark Beijing apartment knew exactly why. Liu was hours from releasing a call for peaceful political reform in China that would represent the democracy movement'

BEIJING — An imprisoned Chinese dissident who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize was allowed to meet with his wife and told her in tears that he was dedicating the award to victims of a 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, his wife and a close friend said.

Liu Xia, the wife of democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo, also confirmed in a Twitter message Sunday that she had been placed under house arrest since Friday.

Liu Xia said the dissident's jailers had informed him of his prize a day before their meeting.

"Brothers, I have returned," Liu wrote. "Seen Xiaobo, the prison told him the news about his award on the night of the 9th."

The Twitter message was verified by a close friend and dissident Wang Jinbo, who wrote in another Twitter message that Liu Xia had told him she was unable to meet the media or friends due to tight security. Wang declined to be interviewed.

The New York-based group Human Rights in China said it received information from Liu Xia that she has been told that if she wants to leave her home she must be escorted in a police car.

About a dozen reporters stood outside the main gate of the apartment complex on Monday, blocked by security guards from entering. A U.S. group that serves as Liu Xiaobo's international counsel, Freedom Now, deplored Liu Xia's detention in her own home.

In naming him on Friday, the Norwegian-based Nobel committee honored Liu's more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change – from demonstrations for democracy at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 to a manifesto for political reform that he co-authored in 2008 and which led to his latest jail term.

Wang said Liu Xiaobo told his wife during the visit that the prize "goes first" to those who died in the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen. "Xiaobo was in tears," he wrote.

Liu Xia had sought to meet with her husband after Friday's Nobel announcement, but authorities refused to let her visit until Sunday.

The delay underscored the difficult predicament the Chinese government faces over the award to a dissident it brands a criminal.

While the announcement cheered many in the fractured, persecuted dissident community and brought calls from the U.S., Germany and others for Liu's release, Beijing reacted angrily. It warned Norway's government that relations would suffer, even though the Nobel committee is an independent organization.

Liu, a slight, 54-year-old literary critic, is in the second year of an 11-year prison term and until his wife's confirmation, it was unclear if he knew about his award. News of the prize has been largely kept out of China's state-controlled media. Chinese regulations allow prisoners one monthly visit with their families, and Liu Xia previously said police prohibited her from talking about the Nobel nomination during her visit in September.

Shortly after the Nobel announcement, Liu Xia said she was negotiating with police to visit her husband to deliver the news. Later that night, family members said police escorted her to Jinzhou, a city 300 miles (500 kilometers) from Beijing where the prison is located.

Liu Xia did not provide further details on the meeting in her Twitter message. She said she had been placed under house arrest from Friday, the day the award was announced, and that she was no longer able to make or receive calls on her cell phone. Washington-based Freedom Now, a legal rights organization, urged world leaders to call for Liu Xia's "immediate and unconditional release."

Liu Xia reported that state security officers followed her as she returned home from the visit and that both her and her brother's mobile phones had been interfered with, Human Rights in China said.

Police put up a roadblock about a mile (1.5 kilometers) from the prison, which sits amid run-down factories on the outskirts of the city. Police stopped foreign reporters from passing the roadblock. Buses with police, cars with surveillance cameras and tactical units were stationed nearer the prison.

The roadblock was removed by Sunday afternoon and security forces gradually left the area.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities continued to step up pressure on activists and Liu's supporters. The son of Beijing-based activist Wang Lihong said police told him Wang was being detained for eight days after taking part in a brief demonstration Friday at a park following the news that Liu had been awarded the peace prize.

Some of China's most prominent activist lawyers said Saturday they were being harassed by police as they took advantage of the Peace Prize to try to reconcile differences among themselves. Lawyers Pu Zhiqiang, Jiang Tianyong and others said they were not allowed to leave their homes.

On Sunday, about 20 protesters in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong celebrated Liu's Nobel prize by drinking champagne and eating Norwegian salmon outside the central Chinese government's local liaison office. They also chanted slogans demanding the release of Liu and other dissidents.

Hong Kongers have been able to freely mark Liu's award because the former British colony enjoys Western-style civil liberties typically denied in the mainland.

Liu's wife has said she hopes to go to Norway to collect the Nobel medal and its prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.5 million) if he cannot.

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Associated Press writers Isolda Morillo and Cara Anna in Beijing, David Wivell in Jinzhou and Min Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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Filed by Adam J. Rose  |