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Enforced silence marks China's anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's death

AFP  |  Beijing 

People around the world marked the one year anniversary of Chinese Nobel laureate Xiaobo's death today with black ribbons, statements and performance art.

But in China, authorities moved to quash any public commemoration of the democracy activist's demise, muzzling his friends and family with warnings, enforced and surveillance.

The crackdown comes as his widow Xia, 57, tasted her first few days of freedom after eight years under de facto house arrest.

She left for Tuesday, escaping the fifth-floor apartment where, despite having never been charged with a crime, plainclothes men had monitored her every move since her husband was awarded the in 2010, outraging China's ruling

A veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, he died from liver cancer last summer while serving an 11-year sentence for "subversion" -- making him the first Nobel winner to die in custody since Nazi Germany.

He was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea -- a decision supporters said at the time had been forced upon his family as a way to avoid creating a where he could be remembered.

Yet even if there had been a tomb to visit, his family would not have been able to go, according to Lu Siqing, who runs the Hong Kong-based website

This morning, "public security warned [Liu's] family members not to go to public places to pay their respects," he wrote in a statement sent to AFP, citing a conversation with Liu's sister-in-law

Liu's friends in had no more luck.

"As far as I know, this year the majority of us [supporters] have been put under house arrest and under At the moment we are all powerless to take action," said his close friend

"The police are downstairs watching right now," he told AFP.

Last year after Liu's passing, activist took part in a small, candle-lit memorial by the sea -- and was subsequently detained for a month.

Yesterday, he wrote on that ahead of the first anniversary, authorities had forcibly sent him from his residence in the southern city of back to his hometown of

"Because I partook in a ceremony for a Nobel laureate... I've been tossed back and forth like this 10 or so times already" in the past year, he said, adding that his father had also been implicated and was now in "deathly despair".

It is a situation often faced by those close to people who have died under what the Communist regime considers politically sensitive circumstances.

The Tiananmen Mothers, an association of parents who lost children when authorities sent tanks to crush peaceful demonstrations in on June 4, 1989, are also monitored, trailed or forced to travel when that controversial anniversary rolls around.

Elsewhere, mourners have been free to mark the anniversary.

In Hong Kong today, activists attached a picture of to the wall outside the Chinese government's office in the city. They also tied black ribbons to metal barriers, burned incense and threw paper money traditionally offered to the dead.

At the in Paris, Chinese Badiucao organised a performance in which volunteers held up large cloth prints of the Mona Lisa sporting Liu Xia's glasses and shaved haircut in front of the original painting itself.

In Berlin, a large public memorial is planned, to be attended by Liu Xia's close friend -- who posted photos of the newly liberated grinning incandescently in a grassy backyard garden.

"We cannot allow the to erase Liu Xiaobo's life and legacy," US Chris Smith, the of the American Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said yesterday.

"In Liu Xiaobo's honour we must unite to condemn Beijing's efforts to silence all those who carry the torch of freedom in

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, July 13 2018. 19:45 IST