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Politics

Liu Xia keeps low profile in Germany as Beijing watches

Widow not seen on anniversary of Nobel laureate's death

Liu Xia smiles as she arrives at Helsinki airport on July 10.   © AP

HONG KONG -- Concern is growing that Liu Xia, the recently released widow of Nobel-winning activist Liu Xiaobo, continues to face suppression by the Chinese government in order to keep her from becoming the face of the country's pro-democracy movement.

Supporters hosted a memorial even here on Friday marking the first anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death of cancer after years spent in a Chinese prison. They called for the release of other activists held by the Chinese government, and sent their thoughts to Liu Xia, who was allowed to leave house arrest in China for Germany earlier this week.

"Liu Xia will probably stay in Germany and share her experiences with people outside China," said Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. Some supporters also want her to accept Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize on his behalf.

Liu Xia herself was expected to skip a memorial event scheduled in Berlin. The poet and painter has limited her media appearances since leaving China.

Liu Xiaobo remained in mainland China instead of fleeing after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, making him a symbolic figure within China's democratic movement. Chinese authorities worry that Liu Xia could stir up uncomfortable memories ahead of the 30th anniversary next year.

Authorities in the northeastern city of Dalian warned Liu Xiaobo's relatives against commemorating his death publicly on Friday, according to a Hong Kong-based human rights group. Liu Xia's brother Liu Hui remains in China in what Hong Kong media describe as a "hostage state."

Liu Xia departed for Germany shortly after a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, raising speculation that Berlin had tacitly agreed that there would be limits on her activities.

The Global Times, a newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial Tuesday that Liu Xia was never under house arrest.

"The West focuses ardently on dissidents and uses human rights as a geopolitical card, rather than truly caring for China's endeavor to promote human rights." the paper wrote.

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