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Free Liu Xia or Face Consequences, US Lawyer Tells China


FILE - Liu Xia, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral in Shenyang in northeastern China's Liaoning Province, July 15, 2017.

China will face consequences if it continues the "enforced disappearance" of Liu Xia, the widow of late Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, as the U.S. Congress may soon vote on legislation to rename an area in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington as "Liu Xiaobo Plaza," according to her U.S.-based lawyer.

That will serve as a public shaming of the Chinese government and encourage other governments to follow suit in honor of China’s most famous pro-democracy activist if the legislation, which the U.S. Senate had already passed unanimously in February, further secures a congressional approval next month following signs that the White House has no intention to veto, Jared Genser, who represents the couple, told VOA.

"I hope that the Chinese government is noticing that the Trump administration has refused so far to publicly threaten to veto [the legislation]. And that should be a very clear signal to the Chinese government that the Trump administration is not happy with Liu Xia’s disappearance," the lawyer said, expressing his confidence in the incumbent U.S. government to toughen up on China.

The lawyer reiterated that senior Trump administration officials have been highly engaged on Liu’s case.

FILE - The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. is seen in this 2008 photo.
FILE - The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. is seen in this 2008 photo.

Liu Xiaobo Plaza in sight?

The renaming legislation, introduced by Ted Cruz, has been made a "major priority" for the Texas Republican senator, whose press secretary said earlier that he’s optimistic and hoping for action as soon as possible.

However, it is not clear what chances the legislation has to pass the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives or when a vote might be scheduled. The U.S. Congress is in recess and any action is unlikely before it returns in September.

Earlier this month, Cruz and his colleague, Patrick Leahy of the State of Vermont, further proposed a bipartisan resolution, calling on China to allow the widow to leave China. The resolution, if passed, will have expressed the Senate’s view for the first time on Liu’s case and that the U.S. government should give her permanent residence.

Last week, Genser also filed an official complaint with the United Nations working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances – a formal legal proceeding that the lawyer said the Chinese government will now be required to respond to.

He added that his initiative was also meant to compel the Chinese government to "re-appear" Liu Xia, who was last seen on state media on July 15 when she took part in what appeared to be a heavily-controlled sea funeral service and helped scatter her husband’s ashes at sea from a boat.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, watches as Liu's ashes are buried at sea, July 15, 2017.
FILE - In this photo provided by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, watches as Liu's ashes are buried at sea, July 15, 2017.

Enforced disappearance

The widow, a 56-year-old poet, painter and photographer, has been under house arrest since 2010 after her husband was given the Nobel title.

She has been diagnosed with depression and a heart condition while being disheartened by the passing of her beloved parents and husband, one by one, over the past two years.

And it’s believed China has not ended her unlawful incarceration even after the country’s only Nobel peace award winner died of liver cancer under police custody on July 13.

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy, Liu Xia may have returned to Beijing, but remains out of reach and under continual police guard at a designated location away from her home as of Wednesday morning, citing words from her relatives.

Excessive grief

"Deeply saddened, she may soon schedule a checkup for her heart condition upon signs of abnormalities likely triggered by excessive grief," the non-governmental organization said in a statement posted on its website.

She has recently seen a psychologist, although her last medical test, a computed tomography scan from a year ago, suggested she was healthy, the statement added.

Pessimistic about Liu Xia’s immediate release, Perry Link, a China expert and professor at the University of California, Riverside, said authorities in China want to suppress Liu Xiaobo’s thinking as much as they can and will do whatever they can to prevent the widow from speaking up.

Cynical hostage taking

Even if she is free to talk, she will be under threat, as her younger brother may be thrown back in jail after he was given an 11-year sentence on what was believed to be a false charge of fraud, but then granted medical parole – a dilemma, which the professor described as a "cynical taking of a hostage."

Link added that the West needs to put teeth behind its call to free her as Communist leaders, by now, feel that they can spite international opinion.

"I believe that a threat of strong trade sanctions would work. But I do not believe that Western governments will do such a thing," the professor said in a replied email to VOA.

Genser, however, showed more confidence in concerted efforts by the international community.

He said he believes governments worldwide should come to the realization that Chinese leaders, who are self-interested in maintaining their grip on power, cannot afford to risk the Chinese economy and walk away from its relationship with other countries that raise human rights concerns with Beijing.

However, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland Wednesday met with her Chinese counterpart in Beijing. Without touching upon China’s human rights, Freeland only said ties with China were a priority and that Canada is proud of its long history of an independent and particular relationship with China.

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