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China: Seven years after his arrest PEN writers urge China to release Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and wife Liu Xia

Tuesday 8 December 2015 - 12:00am


'Free expression is the base of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth.' - Liu Xiaobo

8 December 2015 - Today marks the seventh anniversary of the arrest of Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre Liu Xiaobo. As writers, PEN members and supporters, we stand in continued solidarity with Liu Xiaobo and his wife, the artist and poet Liu Xia, who has been under an illegal house arrest for more than five years.

Chinese poet and human rights defender Liu Xiaobo was arrested on 8 December 2008, and sentenced to 11 years in prison for his dissident writings and peaceful activism. His imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power” related to 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.

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.

We believe 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 are extremely concerned for her physical and psychological well-being.

We call on the Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo immediately and unconditionally and lift all restrictions placed on Liu Xia.

Jennifer Clement, president, PEN International said:

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia represent the many critical voices across China currently being silenced. Their words reverberate across the globe and we will continue to fight for their freedom until China heeds our call. They may be imprisoned but we will not let them be silenced.’

‘In any other country, Liu Xiaobo would be considered a national treasure and honoured. In China, however, he remains in jail. His crime, if it can be called a crime, is to demand the freedoms for all Chinese that are enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights but which the Chinese state continues to deny him and many others. China wants to be considered a major international power. To meet those aspirations it must release him, other writers and political prisoners.’- Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

‘All supporters of freedom of expression - our one resource in the face of repressive regimes - must admire and speak up for Liu Xiaobo. Living in relative safety, we try to imagine the cost of speaking out. Liu Xiaobo has put his life on the line. It is an honour to be able to support his high principle and courage.’ - Judith Rodriguez, member of PEN’s Writers Circle.

‘Charter '08 which Liu Xiaobo and others presented as a democratic aspiration for China remains an inspiring and courageous vision.  Ideas cannot be imprisoned. Our support continues and grows for Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia.’ - Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Vice President, PEN International.

Hanan Al-Shaykh
Margaret Atwood
Robert Cottrell
Jennifer Clement
Yann Martel
Ian Rankin
John Ralston Saul, President Emeritus, PEN International
Judith Rodriguez
Elif Shafak
Salil Tripathi