Chinese authorities have barred five European diplomats from visiting the widow of the late Nobel laureate dissident Liu Xiaobo, diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
Liu Xia, 57, has been under de facto house arrest despite facing no charges ever since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, a recognition that deeply angered the communist regime.
Liu Xiaobo died of cancer last year while still in prison after being convicted of “subversion”, making him the first Nobel laureate to die in custody since the era of Nazi Germany.
The diplomats’ visit came following increased concern in recent days about Liu Xia’s psychological health.
The envoys, including a French and a German envoy, tried to visit her home on Friday morning but were turned away by officials at the gate to the complex, the sources said.
The guards checked the diplomats’ identities before refusing them entry without giving a reason.
Despite the daily restrictions and surveillance faced by Liu Xia, Chinese authorities still maintain she is free.
Ye Du, a writer and close friend, said Liu had been in a very low mood since she realised she had been fooled by the authorities’ empty promises.
“First they promised her she could leave after the two sessions,” he said, referring to the annual meetings of China’s parliament and its advisory body in March.
“Then after the two sessions, they said she could leave by the end of April. They’ve been lying all along – she doesn’t even has her passport as of now.”
Ye said Liu told him in a brief phone call earlier this month that she was so sad she “could barely eat anything”.
“What can I do? All I’m dealing with now are just some low-level security agents – what decision can they make?” Ye quoted Liu as saying.
Their phone call came four days after Liu told another friend, exiled writer Liao Yiwu, that she had nothing to fear now and was ready to “die at home” in protest at her continuing detention by Chinese authorities, according to an open letter written by Liao.
“You can’t imagine her huge disappointment. Until earlier last month, she still thought there was a good chance for her to leave [China], and now that hope has been dashed,” Ye said.
Liu Xia’s friends have told Agence France-Presse she is taking medication for depression and has suffered from heart problems and fainting. AFP reporters have tried to visit Liu’s home multiple times in recent years, but were blocked each time by plain clothes men.
The United States and European Union have called on President Xi Jinping’s government to free the widow and let her travel abroad.
Germany’s ambassador to China previously told the South China Morning Post that Liu would be welcomed in his country.
When asked earlier this month about Western diplomatic calls for Liu Xia to travel abroad, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters: “But Liu Xia is a Chinese citizen. The relevant Chinese authorities will handle relevant issues in accordance with the law.”
Liu Xiaobo was a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and was detained in 2008 after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling for democratic reforms.
He was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “subversion” but died in custody last July after authorities rejected his request to receive treatment abroad.