CHINA: Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo is permitted brief visit home

Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia 
REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- Almost exactly a year after dissident writer Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, there are signs that the terms of his confinement might be easing.

His brother, in a text message faxed to some news agencies Tuesday, said that Liu had been released briefly from prison Sept. 18 to attend a mourning ceremony in the seaport of Dalian for his father, who had died seven days earlier.

The brother, Liu Xiaoxuan, also reported that three brothers visited Liu last week in prison in Liaoning province and found him to be in “good health.” Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, who has been under virtual house arrest, visited in August, the brother reported. He declined to give more details, saying it was “not convenient” -– shorthand in China that means authorities have prohibited saying more.

Liu is serving an 11-year prison term for “subversion of state authority” after organizing a manifesto known as Charter 08 calling for democratic reforms and respect for human rights. On Oct. 8, 2010, the Nobel committee in Oslo announced that Liu had been awarded the peace prize. He was not allowed out of prison to attend the ceremony.

There are hints that Beijing is easing its attitude. China recently pulled the plug on the widely ridiculed Confucius Prize, which it hastily set up last year as a counterbalance to the Nobel.

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 -- Barbara Demick

 
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