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Detained China Nobel wife speaks out

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, stands in her home where she has been held under house arrest for more than two years in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, stands in her home where she has been held under house arrest for more than two years in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, poses with a photo of her and her husband during her first interview in more than two years at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, poses with a photo of her and her husband during her first interview in more than two years at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalist from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalist from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, stands in her home where she has been held under house arrest for more than two years in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, poses with a photo of her and her husband during her first interview in more than two years at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalist from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • Liu Xia, wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, reacts emotionally to an unexpected visit by journalists from The Associated Press at her home in Beijing, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Liu trembled uncontrollably and cried Thursday as she described how her confinement under house arrest has been absurd and emotionally draining in the two years since her jailed activist husband was named a Nobel Peace laureate.  (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Stunned that reporters were able to visit her, Liu Xia trembled uncontrollably and cried yesterday as she described how absurd and emotionally draining her confinement under house arrest has been in the two years since her jailed activist husband, Liu Xiaobo, was named a Nobel Peace laureate.

In her first interview in 26 months, Liu Xia spoke briefly with journalists from the Associated Press who managed to visit her apartment while the guards who watch it apparently stepped away for lunch. Her voice shook and she was breathless from disbelief at receiving unexpected visitors.

Liu said her continuing house arrest has been painfully surreal and in stark contrast to Beijing’s celebratory response to this year’s Chinese victory among the Nobels – literature prize winner Mo Yan. Liu said she has been confined to her duplex apartment in downtown Beijing with no internet or outside phone line and is only allowed weekly trips to buy groceries and visit her parents.

“We live in such an absurd place,” she said. “It is so absurd. I felt I was a person emotionally prepared to respond to the consequences of Liu Xiaobo winning the prize. But after he won the prize, I really never imagined that after he won, I would not be able to leave my home. This is too absurd. I think Kafka could not have written anything more absurd and unbelievable than this.”

Once a month, she is taken to see her husband in prison. It wasn’t clear when Liu Xia started regular visits with her husband or if they would continue following her interview. She was denied visits for more than a year after she saw him two days after his Nobel win and emerged to tell the world that he had dedicated the award to those who died in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Liu Xiaobo is four years into an 11-year prison term for subversion for authoring and disseminating a programmatic call for democracy, Charter ‘08. In awarding him the peace prize, the Nobel committee cited that proposal and his two decades of nonviolent struggle for civil rights.

Though she is forbidden to discuss the specifics of her situation with her husband, Liu says he knows that she is also under detention.

“He understands more or less,” she said. “I told him: ‘I am going through what you are going through, almost.’ ”

Liu, dressed in a track suit and slippers, was shaken to find several AP journalists at her door. Her first reaction was to put her hands to her head and ask several times, “How did you manage to come up? How did you manage?”

About midday, the guards who keep a 24-hour watch on the main entrance of Liu’s building had left their station – a cot with blankets where they sit and sleep.

Liu appeared frail and explained that she has a back injury that frequently keeps her confined to bed. Her hair was shaved close to her head, a severe look that she has worn since before her husband was jailed in 2009.

A poet, photographer and painter, Liu Xia said she spends her time reading and sometimes painting. She last saw her husband a few weeks ago and said he was in good health, but she couldn’t remember the exact date of the visit.

“I don’t keep track of the days anymore,” she said. “That’s how it is.”

Two years ago this coming Monday, the Nobel committee held Liu Xiaobo’s award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, with an empty chair on stage to mark his absence.

The Chinese government kept Liu Xia and other activists from attending and pressured foreign diplomats to stay away. For a time, the empty chair became a symbol of support for Liu on the internet.

An appeal this week by 134 Nobel laureates, from peace prize winners like South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Taiwanese-American chemist Yuan T. Lee, called the Lius’ detention a violation of international law and urged their immediate release.

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