Chinese who have signed a political manifesto known as Charter 08 have been put under varying degrees of house arrest in the weeks following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident writer, Liu Xiaobo.
Callers hear an out of order message when they try to telephone Liu Xia, the wife of the newest Nobel Peace laureate, and veteran Chinese democracy activist, Liu Xiaobo.
Authorities have cut off two phones she was using. Despite lacking a working phone, she initially communicated with supporters over the Internet, via Twitter. Her last message was October 18.
Liu's is one of the most prominent names on a list of about 40 people subject to varying degrees of house arrest. The group Human Rights in China released information about the list Friday from New York.
The one thing the detainees have in common is that they all signed Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and free speech.
Earlier this month, the Nobel Committee awarded its peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, one of the key organizers of Charter 08, who now is in prison. More than 300 people signed the document when it was made public in December 2008. Since then, it has circulated on the Internet and more than 10,000 people have signed it.
One person targeted recently was political scientist Liu Junning. He says shortly after the Nobel announcement, guards appeared outside his house and followed him everywhere he went. They withdrew about a week ago, although he is not sure why.
"It seems like they had nothing to do here, most of the time I am staying in the house," he said. I'm staying home."
Other prominent names in the dissident community, people who also signed Charter 08, have been unreachable in recent weeks. They include senior dissident Bao Tong, who spent seven years in jail for opposing the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989. Another is Ding Zilin, an organizer of Tiananmen Mothers, a group made up of surviving relatives of people killed in 1989.
Liu Xiaobo also served jail time for his involvement in the 1989 demonstrations. Last year, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of trying to subvert the state.
In a 2006 video interview circulating on the Internet, Liu appeals for the whole world to support Chinese writers.
Liu calls China a totalitarian state, but says he hopes it can become a nation where individuals can express themselves freely and publish without barriers.
The government responded with outrage to his award, accusing the Nobel Committee of disrespecting China's judicial system and interfering in its internal affairs. The official Xinhua News Agency carried a signed commentary Friday that lashed out at Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, who recently said the issue of human rights is above national sovereignty.
The Chinese article says supporters of the Nobel Peace prize to Liu Xiaobo maintain a "Cold War mentality," and are trying to use whatever means possible to sabotage China's rise in the world.
Stephanie Ho | Beijing 29 October 2010