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Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo Cremated, Buried In Controversial Ceremony

  • RFE/RL

Liu Xiaobo (file photo)

China has cremated the body of jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was then buried at sea in a controversial ceremony.

Liu died this week after a battle with cancer amid international criticism of Beijing for not letting him to spend his final days free and abroad.

Chinese authorities said Liu's cremation took place on July 15 in a ceremony attended by friends and family members, including his wife, Liu Xia, who has been kept under house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia in 2010.

Liu, 61, died on July 13 from multiple organ failure that followed a battle with liver cancer while serving an 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" after co-writing a petition calling for sweeping political reforms in 2008 that was signed by some 300 Chinese intellectuals.

But Liu's supporters said Chinese authorities ordered the cremation and burial at sea to avoid giving him a pilgrimage site where friends and supporters could remember a writer whose calls for political reform angered the Communist regime.

Liu Xia in 2012
Liu Xia in 2012

"It is deplorable how the Chinese government has forced the family to cremate Liu Xiaobo, bury him at sea, and then coerced Liu's brother to make robotic statements to the media about the great care of the government and superiority of its health-care system," said Jared Genser, a U.S. lawyer who represented Liu.

"The government's thinking is that in this way, they can destroy the body and remove all traces of him," dissident and family friend Hu Jia said by phone.

In funeral photographs handed out by the government, Liu Xia and other family members are seen standing around Liu's coffin surrounded by white flowers, a symbol of mourning in China.

But Patrick Poon, an Amnesty International China researcher, said he did not recognize anyone among the nonfamily members in the official photo and friends of Liu identified at least one "state security police officer" there.

Famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who lives in Berlin, tweeted a photo of the funeral, which he called "disgusting" and a "violation" of Liu's memory.

Activist director and Liu friend Zeng Jinyan said she was among his friends who traveled to Shenyang only to be prevented by the authorities from seeing Liu in his final moments.

Zeng said it was "shameful" that officials reported that Liu's friends had attended the funeral, calling it "disgusting."

Liu's death has prompted tributes from around the world and in Hong Kong, thousands of people carrying candles marched on July 15 in remembrance of Liu.

But there has been little mention of him in the heavily censored Chinese media.

On social media, the Chinese government has reportedly censored reactions to his death, and his wife -- who is an artist, poet, and human rights activist -- continues to be held incommunicado.

Liu was the first winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to die in custody since 1935 winner Carl von Ossietzky of Germany, who died in 1938 after years in Nazi concentration camps.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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