Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia 刘霞 was granted a short visit to her husband in custody on 1 January 2009, according to Liu’s lawyer Mo Shaoping 莫少平 in an interview with Radio Free Asia. Liu has been detained since 12 December 2008 in connection with his role in the drafting, signing and disseminating of Charter 08. The following is my translation of relevant sections in the RFA report:
Liu Xiaobo’s lawyer Mo Shaoping told our reporter on 1 January that Liu Xia was summoned for questioning earlier on the same day at around 8.30 in the morning. When she arrived there, she was immediately escorted to the residential venue where Liu Xiaobo was detained for surveillance. They were granted a short meeting. The detaining of Liu Xiaobo at a separate residential venue for surveillance and the delay in informing family members about the detention are against the law, according to Mo Shaoping, who says:
“Liu Xia said that all of a sudden at 8.30 in the morning she was asked to go to the local police office for a chat. Public security there accompanied her to go to see Liu Xiaobo. She said that his physical condition was fine. Liu Xia could not recall the exact location of the venue, as she was taken there by public security officers. Liu Xiaobo’s status is now formally declared as under residential surveillance. It is probably in connection with the Charter 08 incident. According to law, residential surveillance should be conducted at one’s residence. Only someone without a resident permit in this city will be assigned a place of detention. It is therefore against the law to take Liu Xiaobo away from home for residential surveillance. The fact that there is a delay in informing Liu Xiaobo’s family of his detention is, strictly speaking, also against the law.”
The Chinese Law Prof Blog published the following information about “residential surveillance” in a blog post titled “Legal analysis of Liu Xiaobo’s detention“:
“Residential surveillance” (监视居住): Decision issued from PSB (not police station), read to suspect, suspect required to sign or otherwise acknowledge. Under this status, suspect cannot leave residence or designated dwelling without permission, meet with anyone other than his lawyer, is required to appear when summoned for questioning, and is prohibited from tampering with witnesses or destroying evidence. Surveillance period cannot exceed six months. No formal notification to family is required.
In theory, “residential surveillance” should take place at one’s residence (thus meaning there is little need for family to be notified). However, in practice police have often stretched the provisions of the law and applicable regulations and held suspects in guest houses or other locations. (This is illegal when the suspect has a residence that could otherwise be used for this purpose.) According to a SPC interpretation, “residential surveillance” under such circumstances constitutes “deprivation of liberty” and, therefore, the length of time spent under such surveillance must be counted as “time served” in any eventual sentence. However, the lack of requirement for notification appears to be a major loophole.