Liu Xia, the widow of democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been kept under house arrest without charge since 2010. A 56 year-old poet and photographer, Liu was arbitrarily confined to her home soon after her imprisoned husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010, though she has insisted that she is “not a vassal of Liu Xiaobo” and maintains an independent artistic identity. Liu was last seen in state-issued propaganda photos of Liu Xiaobo’s burial at sea, and she has not been heard from since.
Following her husband’s death on July 13, 2017, Liu was photographed participating in funeral arrangements allegedly designed to minimize the symbolic impact of Liu Xiaobo’s death on other dissidents and activists, which included scattering his ashes in the Pacific Ocean instead of creating a gravesite that could become a site of pilgrimage his supporters. It is unclear if Liu Xia desired or agreed to these arrangements.
Chinese authorities continue to insist that Liu is “free,” and an official from the Shenyang city government stated in a press conference that as a Chinese citizen Liu’s rights would be “protected under the law” and that it was “the wish of the family members” that she not be disturbed as she mourned her husband.
However, on July 19 reporters attempting to gain access to Liu’s home in Beijing were surrounded by plainclothes agents who demanded they leave and denied knowing that Liu lived in the area at all. On the same day, rumors surfaced that Liu had been forced to take a “vacation” in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, though her friends and confidants admit that they have “tried every means possible” but still have been unable to contact her since Liu Xiaobo’s funeral. Liu’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, confirmed that he had been unable to speak with her and Tienchi Martin-Liao, a family friend, said that weekly video chats with Liu had been suspended after Liu Xiaobo’s death.
Liu, who suffers from severe depression and a heart condition, has endured seven years of isolation because she has stood by her husband and his political views. Nonetheless, Liu herself is an independent thinker and prolific poet, and has continued producing work throughout her detention that speaks to her hope for the transcendence of authoritarian repression in China. Join us today in calling on the Chinese government to release Liu Xia and allow her contact with the outside world immediately.