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Widow of late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo in desperate plea for help

Posted May 3, 2018 1:55 a.m. EDT

— The widow of the late Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has made a desperate cry for help, friends say, as the Chinese government refuses to let her travel abroad for medical treatment nearly 10 months after her husband's death.

"Xiaobo is gone and there's nothing in the world for me now," Liu Xia on Monday told a longtime friend, who posted her words in a detailed Facebook post along with an audio clip of an earlier conversation.

"It's easier to die than to live. For me, using death to fight back can't be any simpler."

Liu Xiaobo died of lung cancer last July in a hospital in northeastern China, a month after he was granted medical parole from a 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power."

His conviction in late 2009 stemmed from his co-authorship of a manifesto calling for human rights and political reform in China.

Liu Xia's friend, Liao Yiwu, a prominent Chinese writer who now lives in Germany, wrote he was devastated to hear Liu Xia's condition, and wanted to put a spotlight back on her eight-year ordeal, which began when Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while in prison.

In a seven-minute recording of an April 8 phone call uploaded by Liao, Liu Xia, who friends say has been suffering severe clinical depression for years, could be heard sobbing and crying throughout the audio clip, with periodic outbursts of deep frustration.

"You can record this now: I'm so ... angry that I'm ready to die here," she said. "If I'm dead, it'll all be done with."

CNN was not able to reach Liao for comment.

The Nobel committee awarded Liu the peace prize in 2010 for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" -- a move that infuriated Beijing, prompting the authorities to place Liu Xia under de facto house arrest, where she has remained ever since.

After Liu Xiaobo was quickly cremated and buried at sea, the international community -- including US and European officials -- has repeatedly called on President Xi Jinping and his Communist government to free Liu Xia, who has never been accused of any crimes.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in January responded to a question about Liu Xia's status, saying that she is "a Chinese citizen who enjoys all the freedoms in accordance with law."

Friends and activists say, for a while, Liu Xia seemed to be given limited freedom -- allowed to visit a bookstore and talk to a few friends and diplomats from her home phone -- even though she remained under round-the-clock surveillance from state security agents and was denied access to a computer or mobile phone.

Despite vague promises from Chinese officials, though, Liu Xia appeared to grow distraught in recent weeks as her hope of leaving China soon was dashed again, with friends saying she increasingly turned to cigarettes, sleeping pills and anti-depressants to get by.

"You can hear her fear, desperation and even breakdown in the audio clip," said Hu Jia, a leading Chinese human rights activist who has known Liu Xia for years and has served prison terms for his own advocacy. "As her friends, we feel her pain and helplessness."

"The Communist Party is clearly not ready to open her prison gate and her shackles," he added. "We are so afraid of her choosing to commit suicide -- how many clinically depressed people have to endure eight years of suffering while facing up to an all-powerful state?"