Chinese Nobel laureate's widow makes first appearance since funeral

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has appeared for the first time since her husband’s funeral in an online video in which she said she was recuperating and asked for time to mourn.

Liu Xia had been under effective house arrest since her husband, a prominent dissident since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, won the Nobel prize in 2010. He died on July 13 after being denied permission to leave the country for treatment of late-stage liver cancer.

Liu Xia had been allowed to visit him in prison about once a month and to remain with him while he was treated in his final days.

However, friends of the couple have told Reuters that they have been unable to speak with her since after her husband’s funeral, after which they say she returned to Beijing and has been staying with a friend.

In a roughly one minute-long video posted on YouTube on Friday, Liu Xia speaks directly to the camera while holding a lit cigarette. She was sitting on a white sofa in front of a pot of tea in what appeared to be the living room of a home.

“I am outside recuperating, everyone please grant me time to mourn, time for my heart to heal and one day I will be able to face you all in a healthy state,” she said. It was not immediately clear what she meant by “outside”.

“The doctors tried their best when Xiaobo was ill and Xiaobo also viewed life and death very plainly. So I must recalibrate, and in future when I have made improvements in different aspects, I can be with you all again.”

Reuters was not able to verify whether she made the comments of her own free will or her location.

The video was uploaded by user “goudan li”, who joined YouTube on July 6, 2017. Other videos uploaded by the user were ones alleging wrongdoings by fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui. “Goudan li” did not immediately respond to Reuters’ messages on the video.

Chinese authorities have said that Liu Xia was free and have told diplomats who asked about her whereabouts that her lack of communication was due to her desire to mourn in peace.

Before the death of her husband, Liu Xia had told diplomats and friends that she wished to leave China should Liu Xiaobo be released.

Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer based in the United States who had advocated for Liu Xiaobo and his wife, filed a formal complaint on the behalf of Liu Xia with the U.N. Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in early August.

China’s Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not possible to contact the Ministry of State Security as it has no website or publicly available telephone number.

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after he helped write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional Reporting by Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel