8 December 2014
8 December 2014 marks the sixth 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. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for “inciting subversion of state power” for his part as the leading author behind “Charter ‘08”, a manifesto calling for protection of universal human rights and democratic reform in China.
In October 2010, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his continued and non-violent struggle for human rights in China. In prison and unable to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, he was represented by an empty chair – a tradition long established in PEN International meetings to highlight cases of persecuted writers.
His wife, poet and artist Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest following the Nobel announcement in October 2010 and continues to be held without charge or legal due process. Her home is guarded by security officers and she is prevented from communicating freely with the outside world.
PEN believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is intended as punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological well-being.
PEN calls on the Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally and lift all restrictions placed on Liu Xia.
‘abandon the imagined martyrs
I long to lie at your feet, besides
being tied to death this is
my one duty
when the heart’s mirror-
clear, an enduring happiness’
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 authorities:
- Send appeals calling for 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”;
- Expressing concern at the extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia which is harming her physical and psychological integrity and calling for all restrictions on her freedom of movement to be lifted.
Send appeals to:
His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025
WiPC strongly recommends that you also 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.
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
- 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, pp 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.
**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.**
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 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.
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-internation