The ashes of Liu Xiaobo have been buried at sea depriving supporters of a future rallying point. There are reports his widow, Liu Xia, may have been freed from house arrest.
Chinese officials released a video on Saturday showing the democracy advocate's widow Liu Xia, and relatives lowering a white round urn into the water off the northeastern coastal city of Dalian, two days after he died of liver cancer.
His supporters claimed the family were forced into a sea burial to avoid creating a pilgrimage site for regime critics.
Officials "fear that if someone who is as emblematic a symbol as Liu Xiaobo had a burial ground, it would become a place where his supporters would gather on his memorial day, the day he received the Nobel or any other such occasions to express their desire to chase after freedom," activist and family friend Ye Du told news agency AFP.
Liu Xiaobo's older brother, Liu Xiaoguang, said at a news conference organised by the authorities that the government had followed the family's wishes. He thanked the Communist Party for its "humanistic care" of his brother during his hospitalisation and death.
"It is deplorable how the Chinese government has forced the family to cremate Liu Xiaobo, bury him at sea, and then coerced Liu's brother to make robotic statements to the media about the great care of the government and superiority of its health care system," Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represented Liu, told AFP.
Liu's widow, the poet Liu Xia, with her brother, Liu Xiaobo's brother and friends were seen in a photograph released by authorities earlier on Saturday in front of the body surrounded by white flowers at a funeral home.
An official from the municipal office in the northeastern city of Shenyang said Liu's body had been cremated "in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs."
Liu died of multiple organ failure at a hospital in the city on Thursday at the age of 61 after being transferred there from prison where he had been serving an 11-year term for subversion. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.
Mozart's Requiem was played and Liu Xia "fixed her eyes on him a long time, mumbling to say farewell," the city official Zhang Qingyang said, adding that she was "in very low spirits."
Liu Xia is free?
Zhang told a news conference in Shenyang that Liu's ashes had been given to his widow. Zhang said, according to his understanding, "Liu Xia is free."
"We want Liu Xia to avoid more trouble," he added. "I believe the relevant departments will protect Liu Xia's rights according to the law."
Liu Xia has been held "incommunicado" since her husband's death, according to US lawyer Jared Genser who had represented Liu Xiaobo. She has never been charged with a crime.
In rare public reference to Liu, the state-run Global Times included an editorial describing him as "paranoid, naive and arrogant."
"His influence has breached the fundamental moral principle of Chinese patriotism and posed a challenge to China's stability and national security," the editorial continued. "This is why Chinese society opposes and despises him."
Before he died, international leaders, as well as human rights groups, had called for Liu and his wife to be allowed to leave China.
Liu was only the second Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in prison. Carl von Ossietzky died from tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while serving a sentence for opposing Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.
aw, jm/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)