Jailed Chinese Nobel winner 'getting better food'

Prison authorities in China have started giving Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo better food, the dissident's wife said today, while she herself faces restrictions on whom she can meet and must be accompanied by a police escort whenever she leaves her home.

The democracy campaigner's wife, Liu Xia, said in a rare phone interview with The Associated Press that her husband's brother told her that the jail started providing Liu Xiaobo with better food yesterday, serving him individually prepared food accompanied by rice rather than a portion of food cooked in a large pot for many prisoners, which is usually of poor quality.

There was no immediate indication that any other prison conditions faced by Liu had improved, however.

Authorities allowed the couple a brief, tearful meeting in prison on Sunday.

But Liu Xia said she and many of her friends have been under tight watch in the days since Friday when the award was announced.

Guards are posted outside her apartment in Beijing and she is not allowed to receive visits from anyone, other than her two brothers.

"I am not allowed to meet the press or friends. If I have to do any daily chores, like visiting my mother or buying groceries I have to go in their car (police car)," said Liu Xia, who was using a new mobile phone brought to her by a brother - after police rendered her old one unusable.

In naming him, the Norwegian-based Nobel committee honoured Liu's more than two decades of advocacy of human rights and peaceful democratic change - from demonstrations for democracy in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 to a manifesto for political reform that he co-authored in 2008 and which led to his latest prison term.

Beijing reacted angrily to Friday's announcement awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu, calling him a criminal and warning Norway's government that relations would suffer, even though the Nobel committee is an independent organisation.

Yesterday, it abruptly cancelled a meeting which had been scheduled for tomorrow between visiting Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen and her Chinese counterpart.

Guards at Liu Xia's apartment also blocked European officials from meeting with her yesterday.

Today, US officials said they were closely following the situation of Liu's wife.

"We remain concerned by multiple reports that Liu Xia is being confined to her home in Beijing," US Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan wrote in response to questions. "Her rights should be respected, and she should be allowed to move freely without harassment."

The Beijing public security bureau and the foreign ministry had no immediate comment on why authorities were apparently restricting her movements since she has not been charged with anything.

But "soft detention" is a common tactic used by the Chinese government to intimidate and stifle activists and critics.

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