Home Page > News Item > China: Fifth anniversary of the arrest of poet and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo; grave concerns for the physical and psychological integrity of his wife Liu Xia

6 December 2013

8 December 2013 marks fifth anniversary of the arrest of Chinese poet and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for his dissident writings and peaceful activism. His wife, poet and artist Liu Xia, has been held under unofficial house arrest since October 2010 and is said to be suffering from severe depression. PEN International 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, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological integrity.


PEN Centres are urged to write appeals during the month of December to express solidarity with Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, and all writers currently detained in the P.R.China.

Appeals to Chinese Embassies:

  • Send appeals demanding the immediate and unconditional release of poet and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, and all those detained in China in violation of Article 35 of its own constitution;
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities that as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, the right not to be arbitrarily detained and the right to a fair trial, they are obliged to “refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose”;
  • Protesting the extra-judicial detention of Liu Xia, calling for all restrictions on her freedom of movement to be lifted and expressing mounting concern for her physical and psychological integrity.

Send appeals to:

His Excellency Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

State Council

Beijing 100032

P.R. China

WiPC strongly recommends that you send or, if possible, personally deliver the appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it to the Chinese authorities and welcoming any comments – see below for guidance.

To achieve the greatest impact, appeals should be sent during the month of December.

Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. WiPC recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.

You may find it easier to write to the Chinese ambassador in your own country asking him or her to forward your appeal. Most embassies are obliged to forward such appeals to the relevant officials in the country.  A letter or petition signed by an eminent member of your Centre may make it more likely for your appeal to be considered. Similarly if your appeal is published in your local press and copied to the Chinese ambassador, this too may have greater impact.

See this useful link to find the contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country Chinese embassies abroad

**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 31 December 2013**

Press and Publicity

  • A campaign website compiled with Front Line Defenders is available – please continue to submit recordings of your readings of Liu Xiaobo’s work. The process for uploading a video is very simple. Please click here for instructions and writing samples by Liu Xiaobo (in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Farsi and Chinese).
  • Use the compiled video animation in public events.
  • Write articles for publication in the press to celebrate Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia and to highlight the situation for freedom of expression in China.


  • Elect a Chinese writer as an Honorary Member of your Centre and by doing so provide long term support and advocacy for him/her and their family. For details of the International PEN Honorary Membership scheme, read the PEN WiPC Guide to Defending Writers Under Attack  (Part V, pgs 15-20). Please let us know if you do so and we will ensure that your Centre is networked with others working on the case.
  • Send cards to as many Chinese writers in prison as you can. This has been shown to afford detainees better treatment in prison, as well as providing moral support. A list of main cases and prison addresses is attached.

**Please remember to let the PEN International office know about any actions undertaken, and please send us links to any press coverage so that we can share it with other centres.**

Additional Resources

LIU XIAOBO: Case background

Liu Xiaobo was arrested on 8 December 2008 and held under ‘residential surveillance’, a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing until he was formally charged on 23 June 2009 with ‘spreading rumours and defaming the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years’. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on 25 December 2009. The verdict offered as evidence seven phrases that he penned from 2005 until his detention—all either quotations from his many essays or from Charter 08, which Liu had helped draft.  In mid-November 2013 his lawyer began legal proceedings to apply for a re-trial.

Liu Xiaobo first received support from PEN International in 1989, when he was one of a group of writers and intellectuals given the label the “Black Hands of Beijing” by the government and arrested for their part in the Tiananmen Square protests. Prior to his current arrest, Liu has spent a total of five years in prison, including a three-year sentence passed in 1996, and has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment and censorship.

LIU XIA: Case background

Liu Xia is a poet, artist, and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. She has been held in her Beijing apartment without access to phones, Internet, doctors of her choice, or visitors since Liu Xiaobo was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010. In recent weeks, there has been increased concern regarding the mental and physical health of Liu Xia, who is reportedly suffering from depression and a heart condition.

On 3 December 2013, Hong-Kong based activist 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 each other;” (3) “I request the right to work and receive an income.”

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 January 2014 Liu Xia was rushed to hospital in Beijing after suffering myocardial ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart). She returned for further tests on 8 February 2014 but was discharged the following day and is said to be in urgent need of specialist medical care. Her phone line was reconnected after her initial hospitalisation to enable her to call for help in case of emergency.

PEN International 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, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological integrity.

Four newly translated poems by Liu Xia have recently been published by PEN International, including a video of poetry readings she recorded in December 2013 which was smuggled out of her apartment.

For more samples of writings by Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia and other resources, go to the PEN America website.

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@pen-international.org