Case History: Liu Xia
On 10 July 2018, poet and writer Liu Xia boarded a plane bound for Berlin, Germany, taking leave at last from the country that had kept her under arbitrary detention for seven and a half years. Liu Xia had been kept under strict, supervised isolation following the 2010 awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize to her husband, democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo.
Liu Xia, a painter and photographer, is wife of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights defender, Mr Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power'.
On 10 July 2018, poet and writer Liu Xia boarded a plane bound for Berlin, Germany, taking leave at last from the country that had kept her under arbitrary detention for seven and a half years. Liu Xia had been kept under strict, supervised isolation following the 2010 awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize to her husband, democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo. For years, despite the lack of any judicial proceeding or criminal allegation against her, Liu Xia was forbidden to leave her home, cut off from friends and family and granted only rare visits or phone calls. Following Liu Xiaobo’s death from liver cancer in 2017, Liu Xia made repeated requests to leave China, in particular to seek medical attention in Germany for psychological depression. Although the German government expressed its willingness to receive the poet, Chinese authorities rejected Liu Xia’s petitions to leave the country, continuing her isolation and restriction of movement.
Front Line Defenders joins Liu Xia’s supporters around the world in celebrating her liberation from the psychologically oppressive conditions of her unlawful and arbitrary detention, though it regrets that she has been forced out of China to achieve this freedom.
On 3 December 2013, three requests issued by Ms Liu Xia in relation to her house arrest were made public by Hong Kong-based human rights defender, Ms Zeng Jinyan.
On the morning of 3 December 2013, Zeng Jinyan posted on her blog three requests made to the Chinese government by Liu Xia. Zeng Jinyan has not disclosed how she received the information. These requests were as follows:
1. I request the right to consult a doctor freely.
2. I request that Liu Xiaobo and I are allowed the right to read the correspondence we write to eachother.
3. I request the right to work and receive an income.
In recent weeks, there has been increased concern regarding the mental health of Liu Xia, who is reportedly suffering from depression. According to Zeng Jinyan, Liu Xia is not willing to see a police-appointed doctor for fear of being interned in a psychiatric hospital, a punishment sometimes used by the Chinese authorities to silence human rights defenders. Regarding her second request, Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo have not been permitted to read the letters they send to each other.
In June 2013, Liu Xia's brother, Mr Liu Hui, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for 'financial fraud', in a case widely considered as political retribution for the Liu family. Liu Xia had been financially dependent on her brother until his arrest. Since then, Liu Xia has struggled to support herself financially while her wider family has also been placed in financial difficulty due to the legal costs associated with Liu Hui's trial.
Front Line Defenders believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is a form of punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo. Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Liu Xia.
Ms Liu Xia, the wife of human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mr Liu Xiaobo, continues to be held under house arrest and largely incommunicado in her home in Beijing, one year after the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to her husband.
On 8 October 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”. Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in December 2009 on charges of subversion of state power for the role he played in drafting Charter '08, a document calling for an end to one-party rule and its replacement by a system based on human rights and democracy. Liu Xia is a poet and a painter.
Following the announcement of the award in October 2010, limits were immediately placed on Liu Xia’s freedom. Security around her apartment was increased, preventing her from leaving. Since then, friends, diplomats and journalists who have attempted to visit her have all been turned away by police at the gates of her compound. Her mobile phone and internet access have been cut off and she has been mostly confined to her home. She was permitted to visit her husband once in prison in north-eastern China with a police escort in the days following the announcement of the award, but since then, regular visits have been denied. It has been recently reported that Liu Xia was allowed to visit Liu Xiaobo for a second time in August 2011.
Liu Xia was initially able to communicate with the outside world via Twitter, but her internet access appears to have been blocked on 18 October 2010. In a brief moment of connectivity during the Chinese New Year in February 2011, Liu Xia was reportedly able to send an online message to a friend saying, “Can’t go out. My whole family are hostages. So miserable. I’m crying. Nobody can help me.” This is believed to have been Liu Xia’s last contact with the outside world.
Front Line believes Liu Xia is being targeted solely due to the fact that she is married to Liu Xiaobo. She has not been accused or convicted of any crime.