Scottish PEN welcomes the release of Liu Xia and calls on China to release all imprisoned writers and protect free expression.
Following the death of her husband, the Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia has continued to be under house arrest, having been charged with no crime. It was widely believed that her arrest was a political move to stamp out any resistance to the Chinese state and further marginalise those connected to Liu Xiaobo. The house arrest commenced in 2010 when Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia.
Liu Xia’s mental health has been severely affected by being under house arrest. Numerous calls for her to receive immediate medical help for severe depression, insomnia and heart troubles had been ignored by the Chinese government. In a phone call with Chinese writer, Liao Yiwu, Liu Xia stated “If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home.” We hope that by leaving China for Germany she is able to receive the treatment she needs to recover.
A founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC), Liu Xia has dedicated her life to the written word and the freedoms that make it possible. Her life has been one of constant and unwavering bravery and commitment to protecting the rights of writers, poets and artists from across China and for establishing a space for fundamental human rights. The unending attacks on her and her late husband were testament to how much the state feared their activism – they could encourage and inspire others to express themselves and give voice to their experiences, beliefs and opinions, challenging the near total monopoly of information by the Chinese state. When a country fears hearing the voices of their citizens, writers and poets become the most dangerous threat to that control.
Jane Archer, the Chair of the Writers At Risk Committee said:
“The Writers At Risk Committee and Scottish PEN have worked alongside PEN International to campaign for the release of Liu Xia and the news that she is again free is incredible. She is a tireless defender of the written word, who should never have been held under house arrest. We welcome news of her release but know that our work is not done, with many other writers still imprisoned in China. To fully protect and respect free expression, the Chinese government needs to follow up this positive step with further robust action and releasing all detained writers is a good place to start.”
Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International, commented:
“It is wonderful news that Liu Xia is finally free and that her persecution and illegal detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities has come to an end, nearly one year since Liu Xiaobo’s untimely and undignified death.
“Liu Xia never gave up on her wrongfully imprisoned late husband, and for this she was cruelly punished. The Chinese authorities tried to silence her, but she stood tall for human rights. However, after eight years under illegal house arrest her health is a cause for genuine concern.
“Now, the harassment of Liu Xia’s family who remain in China must end too. It would be most callous of the Chinese authorities to use Liu Xia’s relatives to put pressure on Liu Xia to prevent her from speaking out in the future.”
While Liu Xia’s release is to be welcomed, we call on China to stop its attacks on free expression through the threats, arrest and imprisonment of writers, poets, artists and activists. Free expression is not a crime.