China rejects appeal on behalf of Nobel Prize winner's widow

FILE - In this Saturday, July 15, 2017, file photo provided by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, center, wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral in Shenyang in northeastern China's Liaoning Province. China has rejected an appeal from dozens of writers and artists for the release from house arrest of Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. (Shenyang Municipal Information Office via AP, File)

BEIJING — China on Thursday rejected an appeal from dozens of writers and artists for the release from house arrest of the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that Liu Xia's right to travel was an issue for the Chinese government alone to determine.

"It is a matter falls within China's judicial sovereignty. She is a Chinese national (and) we of course handle the relevant issue in accordance with our laws and regulations," Liu said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

Lu's comments came after writers and artists including South African novelist and Nobel winner J.M. Coetzee, Rita Dove, Paul Auster, Khaled Hosseini and Michael Chabon read excerpts of Liu Xia's poetry as part of a video campaign. Liu Xiaobo died of cancer last year while serving a prison sentence for incitement to subvert government power.

Liu Xia, who suffers from depression and is believed to be in declining health, has never been charged with a crime, but has been kept guarded and isolated since her husband was awarded the 2010 prize.

In a news release about the video readings, Amnesty International said: "The excerpts celebrate some of Liu Xia's most powerful works while calling on the Chinese government to end their cruel campaign of retaliation against her for her late husband Liu Xiaobo's calls for democratic reform."

Germany said earlier this month it would welcome Liu after a recording was released of her crying in desperation and indicating she has given up hope of being able to leave China.

"If I can't leave, I'll die in my home," Liu said during the recent phone call with her close friend Liao Yiwu, a writer who documented their conversation.

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