BEIJING – The wife of China's imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was able to leave house arrest for a family meal while President Hu Jintao was visiting the United States last week but is still unable to visit her husband in jail, a rights group said Friday.
It was the first known time that Liu Xia has been able to leave house arrest since October, shortly after her husband was awarded the peace prize.
Liu Xia's younger brother said she was able to eat one meal with her elderly parents during Hu's visit to the United States, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
The gesture was apparently in response to U.S. criticism of Liu Xiaobo's treatment.
Rights groups and some countries have objected strongly to Liu Xia's house arrest, in which she is cut off from telephone and Internet communication with the outside world. Her parents, who are in their 80s, are not allowed to visit her.
The Chinese government has never explained why she is being held.
Liu Xia's younger brother, Liu Tong, also said the family still has not been given permission to visit Liu Xiaobo in prison, though Chinese law allows one family visit per month, the rights group said.
China has blocked visits to Liu Xiaobo since shortly after the author and critic was awarded the peace prize in October for his decades of activism ranging from 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square to a 2008 demand he co-authored for deeper freedoms in China.
The Chinese government says Liu is a criminal and sentenced him in 2009 to 11 years in prison on the vague charge of subversion.
At a news conference last week with Hu, President Barack Obama described freedom of speech, religion and assembly as "core views" for Americans and said he drove that home forcefully in his discussions with Hu.
Hu responded that human rights should be viewed in the context of different national circumstances. But in an unusual concession for a Chinese leader on the world stage, he acknowledged, "A lot still needs to be done in China on human rights."