China cremates Liu Xiaobo, says his wife is 'free'
China's late Nobel Peace laureate and dissident Liu Xiaobo was cremated in a private, muted ceremony in Shenyang city under official watch on Saturday.
The government allowed only his widow Liu Xia and a few other mourners to bid farewell to the man who was also the country's only Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Liu Xiaobo's ashes were later scattered into the sea in a simple ceremony, ensuring that there would be no grave on land to serve as a magnet for protest against the Communist Party, the Guardian reported.
The dissident, who had been serving a 11-year prison term for "subversion", died of liver cancer earlier this week. His wife had been under house arrest since 2010. However, the Chinese authorities said that she was "free".
The couple's close friends and relatives said Liu Xia was under surveillance and that they were unable to contact her.
At 6.30 a.m. on Saturday, Liu Xia was the first to bid farewell to her husband to the rhythm of Mozart's Requiem, then the activist's relatives and friends bowed three times in front of his body during the ceremony.
The Communist regime and the late dissident's brother Liu Xiaoguang claimed that the family decided to cremate Liu Xiaobo and hold a simple funeral for him.
Later, at a government organised press conference, the activist's brother also thanked the ruling Communist Party for its "humanity".
This was in sharp contrast to the activist's friends and his wife, who said relations between the brothers had been severed years ago, and claimed the government had made the decision to hold the private funeral and cremation.
Regarding Liu Xiaobo's widow, Shenyang Information Office spokesperson Zhang Qingyang said that "the Chinese government will protect her legitimate rights in accordance with the law."
Asked if Liu Xia could travel overseas as she previously requested, Zhang said she was free but as she was "in great sorrow" over the death of her husband, the authorities respected her wish not to be disturbed, Efe news quoted Zhang as saying.
Many close friends of Liu Xia warned she is in deteriorating health, having spent almost seven years under house arrest despite not being charged with any crime.
The late dissident's lawyer Jared Genser said Liu Xia had been held "incommunicado" since her husband's death, BBC reported.
On Friday, the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize said it was "deeply worried" about her and urged China to free her.
The activist's friends voiced their rage and disgust over the "hastily arranged" funeral. "This is too evil, too evil," the exiled author Liao Yiwu told the Guardian. "They are a bunch of gangsters."
Artist Ai Weiwei said he suspected the authorities had decided to bury Liu at sea to deny his supporters "a physical memorial site". "It is a play," he said.
Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for his non-violent struggle for human rights in China. - IANS