BEIJING — China has lodged formal protests with several countries over “irresponsible remarks” made by foreign leaders about the death of jailed Chinese activist and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.
Remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who through their offices expressed condolences to Liu’s family on Thursday, were “irresponsible” and “a clear interference with China’s judicial sovereignty,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
Geng said China has lodged protests with the United States, Germany and the United Nations, among others.
“Every country should be aware of what they said and who has said it, and we have lodged solemn representations with those countries, and it’s more than one country,” he said.
Liu died Thursday of organ failure, according to the hospital in northern China where he was on medical parole being treated for terminal liver cancer.
His death unleashed a barrage of criticism aimed at Beijing by foreign governments and organizations. Liu, a political prisoner, and his wife, Liu Xia, had repeatedly requested to be allowed to travel abroad for treatment, but Beijing had opposed it.
Liu was the co-author of a document signed in 2008 by 300 intellectuals, calling for a free, democratic and constitutional Chinese state. In 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subverting state power.
One year later, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia for his work campaigning for human rights in China.
Questions remained after his death about the fate of Liu Xia. The activist’s widow had been placed under house arrest after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She reportedly suffers from depression and a heart condition.
Friend and activist Mo Zhixu told dpa that Liu Xia’s family in Beijing had been able to contact her early Friday, and she was in Shenyang, the northern Chinese city where Liu had been hospitalized.
The couple was closely guarded the whole time they were in the hospital, their friends said.
Now, Liu’s supporters as well as foreign governments and organizations, are calling on Chinese authorities to allow Liu Xia to move overseas.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday called on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia from house arrest and allow her to leave the country.
The widow, family and friends of the deceased Nobel peace laureate will hopefully “be able to grieve and honor him in accordance with their wishes,” Zeid said.
“I don’t think there’s any chance for Liu Xia to leave,” said friend and writer Ye Du. “The Communist Party won’t allow her to go abroad because she will tell the rest of the world how many years her human rights have been infringed upon.”
Liu Xia could also accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of her deceased husband, Ye said, generating more negative publicity for Beijing.
Geng told journalists on Friday he “was not aware” of Liu Xia’s situation, and that they shouldn’t speculate regarding her case.
The state-owned Global Times in an editorial on Friday said Liu was “a victim led astray” by the West, whose legacy will soon be forgotten. The tabloid said “forces overseas” used Liu’s illness “as a tool to boost their image and demonize China.”