Deceased Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo’s ashes were scattered at sea on Saturday, Liu’s brother said, in a move described by a family friend as an effort to erase any memory of him.
Liu, 61, died of multiple organ failure on Thursday in a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang, where he was being treated for late-stage liver cancer, having been given medical parole but not freed.
He had been jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after helping to write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.
His widow, Liu Xia, has been under effective house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but had been allowed to visit him in prison about once a month. She has never been formally charged with any crime.
Speaking at a government-arranged news conference, Liu Xiaobo’s eldest brother Liu Xiaoguang offered thanks several times to the Communist Party for its thoughtful care considering the dissident’s “special situation”.
“Why has Liu Xia not come here? Her health is very weak at the moment,” Liu Xiaoguang said, sitting in between an English-language interpreter and a Shenyang government official. “So she can’t come here. It’s very regretful.”
After speaking for about 20 minutes, Liu was escorted out by two unidentified women, an unlit cigarette in his mouth, and did not answer questions from journalists who surrounded him.
The government then showed reporters images of the ashes being scattered from a boat.
City government information official Zhang Qingyang said Liu Xia and Liu Xiaoguang had decided upon the scattering of ashes at sea.
But close friend and fellow dissident Hu Jia said the motivation behind the sea burial was so that there was “nothing to remember him by on Chinese soil” and so that supporters could not create a shrine to pay tribute to him.
“We know that Liu Xiaobo’s home is Beijing, his spiritual home is here, his love was also found here,” he said.
Hu said it was well-known among Liu’s friends that his elder brother did not agree with his political views and that it was a cynical move for him to be presented to the media as representing Liu Xia and the family.
“The extent to what the authorities are capable of always exceeds our imagination, they always have something worse than imagined planned,” Hu said of the news conference.