Liu Xia is free

16 August 2018, 17:09 UTC |

Chinese painter, poet and photographer Liu Xia is free after eight years of illegal house arrest in China. The widow of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who passed away last year, is now making a new life for herself in Germany.

Chinese artist Liu Xia with her late husband and Nobel laureate in 2001. Both are smiling and have their arms around each other.

What happened?

Liu Xia, 57, was forced to stay at home under heavy surveillance and subjected to intimidation by the Chinese authorities after her late husband was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Liu Xia was closely monitored by state security agents and could only be reached by her closest friends by phone in limited circumstances.

Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for ‘inciting subversion of state power’ after he helped devise a call for political reform in China, known as Charter 08. The Nobel Peace laureate died in custody of liver cancer in July 2017, the authorities refusing his last wish to travel abroad to receive treatment. He was recognised by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience.

In April, Liu Xia said she was “prepared to die” under house arrest, during a telephone conversation with her friend Liao Yiwu, an exiled writer. A harrowing recording of this conversation was released on 2 May 2018.

Freedom

Liu Xia landed in Berlin’s Tegel airport on 11 July 2018 around 5pm local time. Her departure from China came after years of pressure on Beijing from activists and human rights groups around the world.

How did Amnesty respond?

In August 2010 Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Asia, Nicholas Bequelin, wrote to the President of China to draw attention to Amnesty International’s petition to end the illegal house arrest and surveillance of Liu Xia, stop the harassment, and allow her to travel freely. Almost 70,000 people from around the world signed the petition.

Thank you everyone who took action – your efforts made a real difference.

A group of people standing on grass in front of large glass office buildings in Hong Kong and holding signs and images calling for Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo to be freed.

 Activists handing over a petition about Liu Xia and Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong © Amnesty International

What next?

While it is great news that Liu Xia is free, there is still work to be done. China Researcher at Amnesty International, Patrick Poon, said: “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.”