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China denies prison visits to Nobel winner

world Updated: Dec 17, 2010 13:47 IST

The Chinese prison where Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is held has suspended visits by his family members and his wife remains under house arrest, a week after the award ceremony, a human rights group said on Friday.

Liu's brother Liu Xiaoguang told the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy that the Jinzhou prison notified the family of the suspension recently. The rights center announced it on the family's behalf.

The telephone at the prison rang unanswered.

China's ruling Communist Party was furious over the peace prize. It kept dozens of Liu supporters from leaving the country to attend the ceremony, put others under house arrest around the time of the ceremony and lobbied other governments not to attend.

Liu's absence at the prize ceremony Dec 10 in Oslo, Norway, was marked by an empty chair. He was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison for subversion over his democracy advocacy.

Another empty chair was for Liu's wife, Liu Xia. Her father and Liu Xiaoguang told the rights center she remains under house arrest and can't even go out to buy vegetables.

They said Liu Xia's home phone was cut off the day of the ceremony and resumed working only today. She also has no mobile phone access.

Liu's lawyer, Shang Baojun, said he had heard about the family's latest comments.

"I've been unable to reach Liu Xia. So there's no way to confirm anything," he said.

Chinese law entitles a prisoner to a family visit once a month, but Liu Xiaobo apparently had no visit last month. Liu Xia was able to visit him in October under increased security and told him he had been awarded the peace prize, but she was placed under house arrest soon after.