Dissident Liu Xiaobo cremated, China claims his wife is now free

Dissident Liu Xiaobo cremated, China claims his wife is now free

He was then escorted out and no questions were allowed, prompting the dissident writer, Liao Yiwu, to tweet angrily about how the family was being muzzled.

A government official in Shenyang, where Mr Liu had been jailed, told a news conference: "According to my understanding, Liu Xia is now free", adding that as a Chinese citizen, her rights would be protected under the law.

Authorities have tightly controlled information about Liu Xiaobo's health and life as well as access to his family members. They also said Liu Xiaoguang did not agree with Liu Xiaobo's political leanings.

On Saturday, Zhang Qingyang, an official from the Shenyang city municipal office, said Liu Xia was "free", but he did not disclose her whereabouts.

The government also said some of Liu's friends attended the ceremony, a claim that was disputed by people who have always been close to Liu.

Zhang said "friends" also attended the ceremony. Jailed since 2009 for fighting for democratic reforms in China, Liu was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in May before being transferred from his prison cell to a hospital room where his treatment became an worldwide issue. And people close to the Liu couple identified at least one "state security police officer" among them.

The brother, who is believed to have been estranged from Liu, may have been coerced to give the statement, said friends of the dissident.

Supporters paid their respects by observing a minute of silence and marching through the streets of Hong Kong holding lit candles. They lauded him as a "great icon" and "people's hero", and called for Liu Xia's freedom.

Australia on Sunday joined that chorus, urging Beijing to lift any travel curbs on Liu Xia.

Besides mourning Liu, a political prisoner, many called for the release of his wife Liu Xia, who despite never being accused of a crime has been kept under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel peace prize in 2010.

On Friday, a foreign ministry spokesman said he would "not make prejudgments" about whether she could go overseas. A government official said she had been freed, but was so "grief-stricken" that she was shunning contact with the outside world. "If I could see her, I would comfort her and offer her a shoulder to cry on", Hu said.

"On behalf of Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo's other family members, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the humanistic care from the Party and the government", Liu Xiaoguang said, adding that concerning the special situation of Liu Xiaobo, the government showed a humanitarian spirit.

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