China says Liu Xiaobo is a criminal

China's Foreign Ministry reiterated that locked-up 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is a convicted criminal on Friday, days before another Chinese writer lauded by the government receives a Nobel.

This year's literature prize winner Mo Yan, who is vice president of the Communist Party-backed writers' association, evaded questions about his fellow countryman Liu at a news conference in Stockholm on Thursday.

Mo refused to elaborate on the case and asked journalists not to press him on the topic, although he has previously said he hopes Liu will be freed soon.

Asked whether the Chinese government instructed Mo not to talk about Liu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "I want to point out that Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to imprisonment by China's judicial authorities for violating laws."

When asked at a daily news briefing, Hong said he did not know about the fate of Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo, who has been held under house arrest for two years following her husband's Nobel win.

"I am not aware of what you mentioned, but I want to point out that the legitimate rights of citizens are protected by the rule of law," he said.

In her first interview in 26 months, Liu Xia told The Associated Press on Thursday that her continuing house arrest in response to her husband's Nobel prize was absurd. She appeared frail and explained that she has a back injury that frequently keeps her confined to bed.

China was furious when the Norway-based Nobel committee awarded the peace prize to Liu, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-authoring a bold call for ending China's single-party rule and enacting democratic rules.

Norway is still suffering from the fall-out, having been the only European country left off a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to visit Beijing for 72 hours without visas starting on Jan. 1.