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7 May 2018

Chinese authorities must release Liu Xia from extralegal house arrest

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the continued detention of Liu Xia, poet, free speech advocate, and wife of deceased human rights defender Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xia has been kept under illegal and arbitrary house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. She has been kept in complete isolation, refused almost all contact with friends and family, and prevented from leaving the country for required medical treatment. The Chinese government’s arbitrary detention of Liu Xia, who has been accused of no crime and subject to no judicial process, constituted a gross miscarriage of justice from its commencement in 2010. Today, eight years later, Liu Xia’s continuing imprisonment within her own home has become a crisis requiring immediate action by Chinese authorities.

Liu Xia’s detention has been diligently controlled by authorities. Over the past eight years, she has been granted only occasional trips outside of her house, to visit family, meet with her husband in detention, or purchase groceries. During all such trips, Liu Xia has been escorted and monitored by national security officers. Before Liu Xiaobo’s death, Liu Xia’s visits to her husband were also frequently obstructed and their written correspondence intercepted. Friends attempting to visit Liu Xia are turned away by guards permanently posted outside the defender’s home, and Liu Xia has reported that she is often unable to make or receive phone calls. In 2013, Liu Xia's brother, Liu Hui, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for 'financial fraud'. This case is widely considered an act of political retribution against Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo, and has placed Liu Xia in difficult financial straits while she is prevented by Chinese authorities from seeking employment. Liu Hui was later released on parole, but authorities have warned Liu Xia that her brother will be sent back to prison if she speaks with activists, diplomats, or media.

On 30 April 2018, Liu Xia was able to communicate by phone with Liao Yiwu, a long-time friend. In clips from this conversation, Liu Xia revealed the extent of her despair in her current condition, and her fervent hope to leave the country that has kept her prisoner for almost a decade. Liu Xia has been invited by German authorities to travel to Germany, and according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Liu Xia is free to travel as she wishes. Despite this, Liu Xia’s applications to travel abroad have all been denied.

Front Line Defenders joins numerous international organizations to demand that Chinese authorities release Liu Xia from her illegal and arbitrary detention. Liu Xia has suffered enough and must be released.