August 24, 2017

Concern for the welfare of Chinese poet Liu Xia is mounting


Liu Xia with her late husband, dissident writer Liu Xiaobo.

A couple of years ago, we wrote about PEN International’s call for the Chinese government to release dissident writers Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia. Liu Xiaobo was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” in 2009, and sentenced to eleven years’ confinement and two years’ deprivation of political rights. Since then, a lot has happened… and a lot hasn’t.

To recap: Liu Xiaobo, a prominent voice for democratization, open markets, and multi-party rule in China, was released from house arrest in late June of this year on medical parole, and died of liver cancer shortly thereafter. Immediately following his death, the world expressed concern for his wife, the poet Liu Xia, herself widely believed to be living under extralegal house arrest despite official claims that she is “a free Chinese citizen and simply grieving in private.”

A poet, artist, and founding member of Independent Chinese PEN Center, Liu Xia was quickly detained in 2010 after her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and since then has been subject to conditions she describes as absurd and unbelievable,” including no access to telephone, internet, or mail, and limited family visits. PEN America notes the confinement is “without any legal justification and [carries] the clear goal of controlling Liu Xia and preventing her from being a voice for her husband’s freedom.”

Liu Xia’s physical and mental health have deteriorated considerably in her unjust captivity. In 2014, she was rushed to the hospital after suffering myocardial ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart). Though her phone line was reconnected after her hospitalization so she could call for medical help in case of emergency, Liu Xia still remains under strict control by the Chinese authorities.

PEN International has renewed its calls for Liu’s release:

For years, Liu Xia has been punished for her husband’s work, and for her refusal to denounce the man she loved. Now it appears she is still being punished, although she has committed no crime. The Chinese government tells us she is free. We must respond by telling them she is not free.

To join the effort, click here. (And if you’re of the opinion that the Chinese government doesn’t care about the Western world’s response to domestic issues within China: consider how they reacted when Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize, and how long the effects lingered.)



Delia Davis is an intern at Melville House.