BEIJING (AP) — The wife of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, depressed from being forcibly sequestered at home alone for the past three years by state security, is issuing a few requests: Let her see a doctor independently. Read her husband's letters. Make a living.
The requests conveyed Tuesday by a close friend depict the psychological, emotional and financial pressure Chinese authorities have imposed on Liu Xia, a soft-spoken poet and artist, in retaliation for the activism of her jailed husband.
Chinese activist Zeng Jinyan, who has been a close friend of the couple for many years, said in an interview that she was expressing Liu Xia's requests on her behalf. They include seeing a doctor outside of the state-run medical system, allowing her imprisoned husband and her to read letters that they have written to each other, and the ability to work and support herself.
"She's quite depressed," Zeng said. "The family brings her medication but they don't know how effective it is because no doctor has seen her."
Zeng added that Liu Xia was concerned that a state-appointed doctor or one whom she sees under the supervision of her minders might put her in a mental hospital that would worsen her isolation from the outside world.
Zeng declined to publicly disclose the source of her information out of concern it would lead to more official retaliation against Liu Xia or her family. But another close friend, Xu Youyu, a retired professor, said the requests described by Zeng were in line with what he had heard about Liu Xia from the couple's relatives and other sources.
"Liu Xia's situation right now, I think, is very critical," said Xu, who was part of a group of friends who managed to visit Liu Xia last December after brushing past a guard at her apartment building. "They have deprived her of her right as a citizen to lead a normal life."
Like Zeng, Xu described how financial pressures were weighing on Liu Xia, whose younger brother had supported her with pocket money until he was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment for fraud. Liu Xia has decried the conviction and sentencing as a vendetta against the whole family.
Her husband, Liu Xiaobo, was convicted of subversion in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison after he wrote and disseminated the Charter '08 document calling for democracy. He was awarded the peace prize in 2010, an embarrassment for the Chinese government, which denounced the award.
Confined to her apartment, Liu Xia is not allowed to interact with most of the outside world save her immediate family — and only with permission. Xu said Liu Xia could support herself by selling her art pieces, but she apparently is not permitted to do so.
"This just makes me want to ask Chinese authorities: will you only be happy if you drive Liu Xia crazy, or drive her to death?" Xu said.
Beijing police did not immediately respond to a faxed list of questions.
Liu Xiaobo's incarceration and the plight of his wife and her family have raised concerns among rights groups and some Western governments. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the American PEN Center issued a joint letter urging U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to raise the issue with Chinese leaders when he arrives Wednesday.