The first rule of medicine is, according to Hippocrates, to do no harm. But if the Chinese government is the doctor and its international image the patient, then the patient has some real problems now.
I just received an email from Freedom Now, a Washington DC-based non-profit that represents newly-announced Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiabao, telling me that his wife has been detained.
According to the statement in the email: 'The Chinese government is detaining Liu Xia, the wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, at her Beijing apartment. She has not been charged with a crime, however, she is no longer allowed to leave her apartment. Friends and media are not allowed to enter her apartment. She is also no longer allowed to use her mobile phone.'
I contacted Beth Schwanke, Legislative Counsel at Freedom Now, who has just confirmed that this is the case.
The news follows reports that a number of dissidents and intellectuals have been detained since Liu was announced the winner Friday. The Guardian, among others, reported today:
'More than 30 Chinese intellectuals have been detained, warned or placed under house arrest in a crackdown to stifle celebration of the Nobel peace prize being awarded to the imprisoned democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo.'
The report also noted there was already talk of his wife having been detained, but at that time she appeared to have at least some freedom of movement, having Tweeted after visiting her husband in jail to inform him he had been awarded the prize. With the apparent restriction on the use of her mobile phone though, this no longer seems to be the case.
I'll keep you posted if I hear anymore, but it's difficult to see any real utility in these kinds of moves.