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China: Concerns for well-being of poet and artist Liu Xia

Friday 21 July 2017 - 1:00am

Liu Xia21 July 2017

RAN 13/17

PEN International is deeply concerned for the health and well-being of poet, artist and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Liu Xia, following reports that attempts to contact her in the wake of the death of her husband, writer and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, have been prevented by the Chinese authorities, despite their assertions that she is ‘free’.  Liu Xia has been subjected to unofficial house arrest without charge ever since Liu Xiaobo was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010. PEN International calls on the Chinese authorities to lift all remaining restrictions placed upon Liu Xia immediately and unconditionally.

Please send appeals:

  • Expressing concern for the health and well-being of poet and artist Liu Xia;
  • Lamenting the death of writer and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo;
  • Calling for all restrictions upon Liu Xia to be lifted immediately and unconditionally if, as it is feared, she remains under unofficial house arrest;
  • Reminding the Chinese authorities that Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China provides for freedom of speech and 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”;

Send appeals to:

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China
Fax: +86 10 6238 1025

Salutation: Your Excellency

We recommend that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments. See this useful link to find the contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country Chinese embassies abroad.

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.

**Please contact PEN International in London if sending appeals after 21 August 2017**

Please keep us informed of any action you take, including any responses you receive from the authorities.


PEN members are encouraged to:

  •  Elect Liu Xia as an honorary member of your Centre and by doing so provide long- term support and advocacy for her and her 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.
  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the cases of Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo, and the freedom of expression situation in China;
  • Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations;
  • Listen to and share poems written for Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo, here.
  • You can view writings by Liu Xia and watch a video of her reading her poetry here.


Poet, artist and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), Liu Xia was placed under unofficial house arrest – without charge or legal due process – following the October 2010 announcement that her husband would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her home was guarded by security officers and she was prevented from communicating freely with the outside world. While under house arrest, Liu Xia’s physical and mental health deteriorated considerably. PEN International believes that the extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is intended as punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo.

It remains unclear whether the restrictions placed upon Liu Xia have been lifted following the death of her husband, writer and Nobel Peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who died on 13 July 2017. At the time of his death, Liu Xiaobo was receiving treatment for late-stage liver cancer for which he received a diagnosis in May. Mr Liu was on medical parole while serving an 11-year sentence for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ in connection with his involvement in the drafting of ‘Charter 08,’ a call for the protection of human rights and democratic reform in China. During his incarceration, the couple was only permitted to see each other once a month.

Liu Xiaobo’s ashes were scattered at sea on 15 July in a move condemned by Chinese dissidents as an attempt to avoid the creation of a site of pilgrimage. Liu Xia appears in photographs of the ceremony disseminated by the Chinese authorities, however, she has not been seen since despite assertions from a Shenyan city government spokesperson that Liu Xia is “currently free,” but wished to be alone. According to media reports, friends and family have been unable to reach her, while journalists who have visited her home in Beijing have been turned away by security officials. PEN International is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological well-being.

For further information please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill Mews, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: